Azores ecotax adopted to promote region’s sustainability
CLIA, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, considers the €3 ecotax per cruise ship passenger adopted in the Azores “will have no impact on environmental protection”.
A bit like the arguments in other parts of the world against taxes purporting to ‘save lives’ that would otherwise be at risk, this new levy is seen by detractors as simply another way of raking in easy money.
CLIA actually dubs it a form of “triple taxation”. In a statement put out this week, the association recalls that the ‘pricing of carbon emissions and imposition of ‘the polluter pays’ will start applying to all maritime operators from 2024.
But it will not reduce emissions.
According to the statement, it will impact on the competitiveness of the archipelago and what has been up until now “the sustained growth of cruise tourism” in the region.
Adding a twist of irony, “in the last two years, almost half of the cruise ships that have visited” the archipelago have been expedition ships, which “scrupulously comply with strict legislation designed to protect the polar regions and nature reserves”.
In other words, they should not require any kind of extra taxation.
Meantime, the sector is “investing more than €45 billion between 2022 and 2028 in new ships with improved environmental performance and is aiming for the entire cruise sector worldwide to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050“, CLIA’s director for government and European affairs, Nikos Mertzanidis, adds, suggesting it is the practical work and investments made by the cruise industry that will reduce emissions, not taxes.
The Azores archipelago “is a valuable destination for the international cruise industry”, he went on. The ports of the Azores are among the most important for Atlantic crossings, having registered “more than 125,000 passengers and 200 cruise ship calls” in 2022.
According to the association’s figures for 2021, cruise tourism in Portugal will have generated total income of €487 million. Today, it directly employs 7,900 people.
Lusa recalls that it was an initiative by PAN (the People Animals Nature) party that led to the decree published earlier this month saying: “There is an urgent need to create and apply an environmental tax to mitigate the negative impacts produced by maritime visitors from outside the region, contributing to the development and sustainability of the destination.”
Nikos Mertzanidis has described the decision as “unfortunate“, reiterating that the sustained growth of the sector “depends to a large extent on maintaining competitive conditions for cruise tourism operations”.
When votes on PAN’s initiative took place in the regional parliament in July, almost every party supported the tax with only Iniciativa Liberal voting against, and CHEGA abstaining.