A new damning report takes a critical look at the North American cruise ship industry, calling for more stringent regulations to halt the environmental pollution caused by the massive boats.
Getting a Grip on Cruise Ship Pollution was authored by Dr. Ross Klein, a professor from Memorial University of Newfoundland’s School of Social Work, and an expert on the cruise ship industry. It was released by the US-based environmental group Friends of the Earth.
Dr. Klein researched a multitude of industry issues including the history of environmental violations, the types of pollution produced, and the modest number of environmental laws that govern the industry.
He offers a wide-ranging set of policy recommendations, providing solutions for comprehensive environmental reform of the cruise industry which earns billions of dollars a year around the globe.
“The report lays out the deleterious effects of pollution from cruise ships – many having significantly negative impacts on human health and the health of the marine environment,” Dr. Klein said.
“The report is a continuation of my writing and research about environmental issues related to the cruise industry.”
Since 1998, Dr. Klein said the cruise industry has been fined more than $60 million for environmental violations.
Despite those hefty penalties, business is booming.
At the end of 2008, the industry was operating 189 cruise ships worldwide with close to 10 million passengers departing from North American ports in 2008 alone.
But Dr. Klein said the environmental consequences are potentially catastrophic.
“The effects are many – from negatively affecting fish stocks, coral, and marine life generally to posing health risks to humans based on the air emissions,” he said. “The problem is particularly troubling given that cruise ships, given their international status, are able to avoid many laws and regulations and are not held to the same standards as producers on land of the same effluents and wastestreams.”
Friends of the Earth said that in one week, an average cruise ship generates 210,000 gallons of human sewage (filling approximately 10 swimming pools) and one-million gallons (40 more swimming pools) of gray water (from sinks, baths, showers, laundry, and galleys), all of which can be legally dumped untreated just three nautical miles from U.S. shores.
Dr. Klein said his research shows that profits take precedence over the environment. He pointed to companies such as Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise operator, which earned net profits between $1.8 and $2.4 billion per year in each of the past five years.
“Passengers get a cheap vacation based on the lack of environmental responsibility,” he argued. “The industry has come out against a Canadian/US call for an Emission Control Area that requires ships to use cleaner burning fuels. The industry opposes the plan because it would add between $8 and $15 a day to a passenger ticket – the fuel that would be required is still much dirtier than that you and I use in our automobiles.”
The new report was produced in part to provide supportive documentation for the Clean Cruise Ship Act presently before the U.S. Congress. It follows a report Dr. Klein researched and produced in March 2009 for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives which looked at the Canadian cruise industry.
Since that report was released, Dr. Klein has been contacted by Members of Parliament who are interested in addressing the problem of cruise shop pollution in Canada.
The release of Getting a Grip on Cruise Ship Pollution coincided with the December 2009 cruise of Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever built with passenger plus crew capacity of up to 9,000 people.