Amsterdam Bans Cruise Ships to Combat Pollution and Overtourism

The city council has approved a plan to close and relocate the cruise terminal in the city’s center

Large cruise ship in water
The ban would apply to ships arriving at Cruise Port Amsterdam, currently located in the city's center. Koen van Weel / AFP via Getty Images

Amsterdam’s city council voted last week to ban cruise ships from docking at the city’s main terminal. Officials hope the decision will help curb the number of tourists roaming around the Dutch capital, as well as protect the environment from the vessels’ emissions, reports the New York Times’ Isabella Kwai.

“A clear decision has been made by the council that the cruise [terminal] should leave the city,” says Ilana Rooderkerk, leader of the D66 party, which advocated for the ban, to Peter Dejong of the Associated Press. “The municipal executive of Amsterdam is now going to work on how to implement it.”

Located in the city’s center, the terminal is a major hub for cruise passengers: Some 2,100 ships ferrying more than 3.8 million travelers have docked there since it opened in 2000, according to its website.

For now, the terminal remains open. City leaders have not given any indication as to when they would officially implement the ban, or where the terminal might be relocated to.

“Despite some news reports, we will stay open for business as usual with cruise ships continuing to call as per the schedule,” says the terminal in a statement on its website. “The current situation has no influence on the already booked calls at our port or even on booked events in the terminal.”

Cruise Lines International Association, an industry trade group, says in a statement that 1 percent of visitors to Amsterdam arrive via cruise ships, which contribute some 105 million euros to the city each year. Additionally, the group says that the terminal and port have pledged to “undertake investments worth millions of euros in port infrastructure and shoreside electricity for the long-term.” Whether those changes would be enough to address city officials’ concerns is unclear.

Cruise lines, meanwhile, are still trying to make sense of the vote, but so far seem largely undeterred. That may be because vessels do have another way to dock near Amsterdam, though not quite as near to the city center. The next closest option is 24 miles away in IJmuiden, and cruise ships could always dock there and bus their guests into Amsterdam, writes the Independent’s Simon Calder.

“Holland America Line has been bringing guests to and from the Netherlands for 150 years, and that tradition will continue for many years to come,” the cruise line tells the Points Guy’s Jordan Waller in a statement.

Amsterdam’s leaders say cruise ships do not align with the city’s sustainability goals. A study of the Marella Discovery, a ship that docked in Amsterdam, estimated that the vessel produced the same amount of the pollutant nitrogen oxide as 30,000 trucks or 370,000 cars.

“Amsterdam sails better without the cruise,” says Rooderkerk in a statement, per Google Translate.

Officials also cited overtourism as another reason for the ban. Amsterdam wants to decrease the number of visitors—or, at the very least, attract those who won’t create headaches for residents. To that end, earlier this year, the city launched a “stay away” advertising campaign targeting poorly behaved tourists. Amsterdam also banned the sale of alcohol after 4 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in certain areas.

“Visitors will remain welcome, but not if they misbehave and cause nuisance,” said Deputy Mayor Sofyan Mbarki in a statement earlier this year. “In that case, we as a city will say: rather not, stay away.”

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