France's to ban polluting cruise ships

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* Ships' fuel has 2,000 times more sulphur oxide than diesel

* Cruise ship traffic nearly double that of 10 years ago

* against pollution, not cruise ships

By Michel Bernouin

, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Mediterranean resort town , France's fourth-biggest cruise ship port, will ban the most polluting cruise ships from next year in a bid to boost air quality in the city.

The ban will target ships that do not respect a 0.1% cap on sulphur in their fuel and could stop some passengers from disembarking in the city famous for its film festival.

"It's not about being against cruise ships. It's about being against pollution," Mayor David Lisnard told Reuters Television in an interview.

Under the European Union's clean air policy, the cap is already enforced in Baltic, North Sea and Channel ports and it may be extended to the Mediterranean.

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Cruise ships run on fuel oil which contains about 2,000 times more sulphur oxide than ordinary diesel, according to German pollution analyst Axel Friedrich.

"We will no longer accept cruise ship passengers coming from polluting cruise ships," Lisnard said.

The exponential growth of the cruise ship industry is often criticised by residents of tourist towns but it is also increasingly considered a threat to the environment.

Three months ago, 's main conservation group said Venice should be put on the United Nations' list of endangered cities and cruise ships should be banned from its fragile lagoon to prevent an ecological disaster.

According to figures from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry's main trade association, 30 million passengers are expected to cruise on almost 300 ships this year, up from 17.8 million 10 years ago.

In July, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which represents 40 percent of ' maritime traffic, signed a Cruise Charter agreement with the city of , promising to make its ships more environmentally friendly. (Reporting by Michel Bernouin Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten Editing by Geert De Clercq and Kirsten Donovan)

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