US cruise industry under fire again in new report

Sustainable Shipping

2nd December 2009 23:15 GMT

Reports looks at possible solutions to cutting pollution from the cruise industry

The US cruise industry has found itself in the spotlight once again with the release of a new report this month that has been prepared for environmental group Friends of the Earth (FoE).

The report looks at both sea and air pollution from North America’s 189 cruise ships, violations of environmental laws, and regulations and possible solutions to the problem.

When looking at treatment of wastewater, the report’s author Ross Klein states the results are “shameful”.

“Treatment of wastewater – sewage and gray water – has been found by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to not adequately meet even water quality standards set for onshore sewage treatment plants,” the report noted.

“The problem is made more serious by loopholes in the Clean Water Act,” it added.

Klein went on to say that the Act fails to classify sewage from cruise ships as a pollutant for permitting purposes, and fails to apply water quality standards to ships traversing US coastal waters beyond three nautical miles.

“While the cruise industry has introduced initiatives to better deal with cruise ship waste streams, these measures often fall short,” it noted.

The report, however, does recognise that some US states have taken dramatic steps to deal with pollution from cruise ships.

“Though responsibility has economic costs, these are modest for an industry that earns billions of dollars”

Alaska has set high standards for wastewater discharged into state waters, regularly monitoring air emissions when ships are in port, and employing onboard observers to ensure compliance with state regulations.

Maine prohibits discharge of gray water and treated sewage into state waters, Washington State prohibits discharge of sewage sludge within twelve miles of the shore through a MoU with the cruise industry, and California bans the discharge of all wastewater, sewage sludge, and oily bilge water into state waters.

The author continues that “if its public commitments to be responsible stewards of the marine environment are to be believed” the cruise industry appears ready to comply with regulations that protect and preserve the marine environment.

He does note, however, that cruise industry “behavior” has brought more than $55 million in fines since 1998, “which undermine such claims.”

The report highlights an “urgent need” for a minimum set of regulation across the US territorial waters.

“Though responsibility has economic costs, these are modest for an industry that earns billions of dollars in net income each year.

Carnival Corporation alone earned more than $9 billion net profit over the past four years and, as a foreign registered corporation sailing foreign registered ships, pays virtually no corporate taxes to the US other than that paid for its tour operations in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska,” Klein said.

Among its recommendations the report says that discharge of untreated sewage shall not be permitted within the US Exclusive Economic Zone and that systems used for treatment of gray water shall undergo monthly testing and evaluation by the US Coast Guard or US EPA.

Natalie Bruckner-Menchelli, 2nd December 2009 23:15 GMT

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~ by fredfelleman on December 3, 2009.

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