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The effect of ship emissions in the urban environment of Göteborg has been studied by multivariate analysis. The simultaneous measurements of relevant gases and sub-micron particles make identification of ship plumes possible. Increased concentrations of these species due to ship emissions are quantified for ships entering the inner part of the harbour. Annual depositions of SO2 and NO2 are estimated to be 220 and 115 kg km−2 yr−1, respectively. Exposure of transient particles (less than 0.1 μm in diameter) to this part of the harbour increased by a factor of 3 in number concentration when a ship plume was recorded. Ni, Pb, V and Zn are shown to have positive correlation with NO emissions from ships.