Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card Sparks Debate

Published Dec 8, 2014 10:14 PM by Wendy Laursen

Cruise ships dumped more than a billion gallons of sewage in the ocean this year, much of it raw or poorly treated, according to federal data analyzed by Friends of the Earth, which continues the call for stronger rules to protect oceans, coasts, sea life and people.

Friends of the Earth's 2014 Cruise Ship Report Card reveals that some of the 16 cruise lines graded are slowly getting greener; but more than 40 percent of the 167 ships still rely on 35-year-old waste treatment technology. Disney Cruise Line was ranked as the most environmentally responsible line, earning an A for sewage treatment.

In a complete reversal from prior years of cooperation and transparency, all 16 major cruise lines refused, through their industry association, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), to respond to Friends of the Earth’s requests for information on their pollution-reduction technologies. Therefore, the 2014 Cruise Ship Report card contains a new category: “Transparency” in which every cruise line received an “F” grade.

“By working to stifle the Cruise Ship Report Card, the industry attempted to shield itself from continued scrutiny of its environmental practices, and obscure data from conscientious consumers who would make different choices based on how a cruise ship or line performs on the report card,” said Marcie Keever, oceans and vessels program director for Friends of the Earth.

Speakint to MarEx on the issues, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia general manager, Brett Jardine, says the long-term success of the cruise industry depends on responsible and sustainable environmental stewardship.

“CLIA members are dedicated to preserving the marine environment and, in particular, the pristine condition of the oceans and other waters upon which cruise ships sail. The cruise industry has pioneered and installed advanced wastewater purification systems that outperform most wastewater treatment facilities in U.S. cities.”

CLIA members have adopted aggressive programs for waste minimization and waste stream management to outperform the stringent standards set forth in international treaties and applicable U.S. law. CLIA members often exceed the requirements of local, national and international environmental laws and regulations by applying best practices and technologies no matter where they operate, says Jardine.

“International and domestic environmental standards and regulations that apply to the cruise industry are stringent and comprehensive,” says Jardine. “CLIA member lines are subject to rigorous U.S. Coast Guard, other port state, and flag state enforcement of both international and domestic laws and regulations governing protection of the marine environment. CLIA and its Global Committee on Marine Environment Protection Matters continue to work with federal regulators to implement the industry’s commitment to the environment.”

He continues: “As environmental stewards and leaders in environmental performance, the cruise industry employs world-class engineers and environmental experts to meet and exceed existing regulations. CLIA members share waste management information, strategies, and technologies in order to focus on the common goal of waste reduction.

The cruise industry makes substantial investments to meet its environmental commitment each year, including:
•    using exhaust gas scrubbers to reduce air emissions 
•    using rounded hulls, applying special hull coatings, and adjusting ship speeds to reduce emissions 
•    developing more efficient engines
•    building new, innovative, fuel efficient ships and retiring older ships to reduce air emissions and improve energy efficiency
•    operating diesel electric engines
•    using alternative fuel options when practical
•    installing low energy LED lights
•    heating passenger cabins with recycled hot water
•    tinting windows to reduce temperatures and use less air conditioning

Additionally, CLIA member lines have developed programs and education materials for passengers and crew to raise awareness of environmental procedures, management practices, and onboard resource conservation programs.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.