Rant: White Bay's pollution problems

When the cruise ship terminal was relocated from the tourist precinct of Darling Harbour to the high density residential area of Balmain/White Bay it brought many problems to the surrounding community. The incidence of health problems from ship emissions as well as the disturbance caused by noise and vibrations has affected many homes.

The cruise ship industry is huge and the energy guzzling consumption of a single ship is more than that of every home on the entire Balmain Peninsula. The cruise ships which operate at White Bay burn some of the worst quality ‘bunker fuel’ in the world. The sulphur content exceeds the regulated limits used in many developed nations by 35 times. In the USA ships must not use this low grade quality fuel within 200 miles of port! Here in Sydney, the ships can burn this dirty fuel 10 hours a day and overnight, right in front of people’s homes.

We were told that there would be about 60 ships a year visiting White Bay. It was 130 in the first year alone. As the northern hemisphere rejects more dirty ships that do not comply with the tight standards there, it is expected that more will find a welcome home in Sydney and the number of ship arrivals will increase.

As a Councillor from 2008-12, I can think of few issues residents vocally raised concern about, like the noise disturbance, and rightly so.

Noise from the cruise ships is causing ongoing distress for residents. Monitoring data shows that 75 percent of ships arriving at White Bay exceed noise levels. Little has been done to change this situation. Just imagine six blasts from a ship’s funnel only metres from your front window. Then, the announcements from the ship’s PA, the exercise drills and more.

For 20 nights over the past year, ships stayed overnight, emitting pollution into people’s homes and causing noise disruption. I appreciate that some people say that they are unaffected by the cruise ship pollution. I wish this were true, however, they live in an area of high exposure to fumes. They have no choice in whether they are affected. That is why it is essential that everything is done to resolve this now, before lengthy exposure has occurred.

State Government has brought this health risk to our high density residential community and it must now do something about it.

The area where the cruise terminal operates wasn’t part of the working harbour until 1970 and, even then, it was rarely used for working harbour activities. The homes were there 100 years before the working harbour even started in that area.

Placing a cruise ship terminal in a high density residential location had no precedent in Sydney, nor Australia. Making such a decision was always fraught with big risks. These risks are now clearly being seen in the rising incidence of health problems affecting everyone from babies to the elderly in our community.

Words: John Stamolis, Independent Candidate for Birrabirragal/Balmain Ward.

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