Video: MSC Cruise Ship Dumps Garbage Bags Off Coast of Brazil

A reader of Cruise Law News has informed us that a television station in Brazil just released a story about a MSC cruise ship dumping garbage bags into the sea off of the coast of Brazil. The story is based on a cruise passenger's account.You can see what appears to be blag bags being throw out of the ship from what a lower deck. The ship had sailed from Italy and the dumping seems to have occurred after the ship made its transatlantic voyage and before it arrived in Brazil.

The vídeo is in Portuguese. 

Here's the information on the YouTube site:

"O navio saiu de Gênova, na Itália. De acordo com passageiro que fez o flagrante, funcionários do navio começaram a jogar os sacos de lixo no mar quando entrou na costa brasileira. A reportagem foi exibida no SBT Brasil."

The translation: "The ship left Genoa, Italy. According to passengers, employees of the ship began to throw the trash bags in the sea when it joined the Brazilian coast. The report aired on SBT Brazil."

A news article from Brazil states that the disposal was close to the natural sanctuary of Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Pernambuco. Here's the translation:

"A passenger on the MSC cruise, which left Genoa, Italy, captured on video the moment official liner trash bags dumped at sea. According to international standards, the waste of these vessels should be treated and separated before being dispensed. 

According to the passenger, businessman Sergio de Oliveira, the staff of the ship began to throw the trash bags in the sea when the ship entered the Brazilian coast. The man also claims that one of the sites chosen for the drop was close to the natural sanctuary of Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Pernambuco. The businessman lodged the complaint to the prosecutor in Apucarana."

If you have information to share about this incident, please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

Governor Parnell Continues to Advance Dirty Cruise Industry's Interests

Governor Parnell and the pro-cruise pollution legislators in Alaska have some new talking points in their efforts to weaken the cruise line waste water restrictions. They say that its not the cruise sewage that will harm the state's image but their opponents' "hype" that easing the standards will result in "dirty water and terrible discharges."        

Putting aside for a moment the nasty spectacle of dumping partially treated sewage into the water, the fact is that cruise ship water treatment devices clearly do not treat all of the wastewater discharged in Alaskan waters in compliance with Alaska’s water quality standards regarding ammonia, as well as the heavy metals - copper, nickel and zinc.

Alaska Cruise Ship Pollution It's unhealthy and dangerous to release these heavy metals into the waters where they will find their way in the fish, particularly salmon. 

Three years ago, the cruise industry flat out threatened Governor Parnell that it would boycott Alaska unless he would agree to work with the cruise lines to avoid pollution regulations. Read Governor Parnell Gets Punked.

Instead of demanding better technologies to address this problem, as required by the 2006 initiatives, Governor is heading the state in the other direction where no efforts will be made to address the problems with heavy metals. Meanwhile, the sewage (whether partially treated or not) will continue to fill the Alaskan waters.   

A newspaper in Ketchikan explains that this is a huge problem given the enormous amount of sewage and toxic by-products which cruise ships will dump in Alaskan waters:

"About 30 cruise ships carrying a total of nearly one million people visit Alaska over a five month period. This result is over one billion gallons of cruise discharges being dumped into unknown areas of Alaska state waters every year."

The newspaper also points out that on January 29th, as the relaxed laws were being fast tracked by legislators, Princess Cruises was fined $20,000 (a slap on the wrist) when one of its cruise ships, the 2,590 passenger Golden Princess, discharged 66,000 gallons of chlorinated pool water into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.  

Zinc, nickel and copper in the fish and chlorine in the water. Alaska is heading backwards.

Read our last article on these disturbing developments in Alaska:

The Dirty Alaskan Cruise Industry Just Got Dirtier

The Dirty Alaskan Cruise Industry Just Got Dirtier

In 2006, Alaskan citizens sent a clear message to the cruise industry that cruise ships could not treat the beautiful waters of Alaska like a toilet.  

Seven years ago Alaskan voters approved legislation that prohibited cruise ships from discharging "untreated sewage, treated sewage, graywater or other wastewaters in a manner that violates any applicable effluent limits or standards under state or federal law, including Alaska Water Quality Standards governing pollution at the point of discharge.” 

Alaska Salmon Fisheries - Cruise Ship PollutionThe Alaskan regulations strictly restricted the level of ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc.  As of 2009, cruise ships were routinely being caught violating the Alaska regulations.  In this chart, in 2009 alone, there were forty-one (41) violations of Alaska'a waster water and air emission laws by Celebrity, HAL, NCL, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Silverseas, with Carnival-owned Princess and HAL cruise ships being the greatest offenders. 

The Miami-based cruise industry is used to getting its way. Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are used to dumping untreated sewage in the waters of powerless Caribbean countries. Most port nations and even most states in the U.S. where the cruise lines base their cruise ships have not enacted any waste water discharge regulations whatsoever.  

But Alaska was different,  It not only passed legislation that banned the nasty cruise line practice of opening the bowels of the huge ships into the state's waters but it took steps to levy a realistic head tax of $50 per passenger to offset the damage to Alaska's infrastructure caused by the massive cruise ships.

The cruise lines did not like Alaska's exercise of its state rights one bit. The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying against waste water regulations. It attacked the green water scientists, removed the honest water experts from oversight panels, inserted cruise industry hacks, and bullied state officials and concerned citizens.  

Carnival led the charge. It threatened Alaskan Governor Parnell that it would pull its ships from Alaska and it sued the state along with other cruise lines to avoid the $50 head tax.

Alaskan Governor Parnell backed down and sent a message to the cruise industry that the state's water emission laws are negotiable. Alaska caved in and reduced its $50 head tax. Alaska began sliding down the slippery slope as the cruise lines increased their lobbying and threatened to boycott Alaska. 

The result today is that at Governor Parnell's urging, the House of Representatives just voted to essentially repeal all of the 2006 waster water initiatives. The debate is now moving to the Senate.

A repeal of the 2006 laws will be disastrous to the waters of Alaska.

Alaskan Cruise Ship - Pollution Waste WaterAs explained in this thoughtful blog, "a single cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, over a million gallons of greywater, 130 gallons of hazardous wastes such as poisonous metals, and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water in a single week-long cruise. There are 28 very large cruise ships which operate up to 150 days annually in Alaska. Such large quantities of pollution are a threat to Alaska’s critical fisheries." 

This results is approximately 1,064,448,000 gallons of sewage and wastewater being dumped into Alaska state waters every year. The really sinister part of the abandonment of the pollution laws is that Republicans rejected Democratic amendments which would have required disclosure of the location of sewage discharges and protected fisheries from sewage discharges.

The thought of the cruise industry dumping over a billion gallons of cruise ship crap into the salmon filled waters is really gross.  They can keep the locations secret too.  I hate to think of all of the norovirus-laden poop floating around with the fish.  But this is the reality of a cruise industry which projects itself as a steward of the seas but is actually the Alaskan waters' worst enemy.

 

Photo:

Salmon - earthjustice.com

Cruise Ship Air Pollution Chokes Hong Kong

The Smart Planet blog has an interesting article about the effects of the ever growing cruise industry upon ports in Asia.

Entitled Hong Kong Contends with Pollution from a Growing Cruise Industry, the article reveals the extent to which cruise lines are still burning bunker fuel while not even equipping their ships with the ability to plug into shore-side electrical power.  

The articles states that "emissions from berthed ships are considered the No. 1 contributor to Hong Kong Cruise ship air PollutionHong Kong’s severe air pollution problem and are said to account for 40% of greenhouse gases within its borders. Coming from cruise and cargo ships, these emissions outdo that of power plants and road vehicles."

Cruise ships and other large vessels are still burning bunker fuel while in port.

Bunker fuel is the nastiest and deadliest fuel in the world. Burning low-sulfur fuel is more expensive and there is no legal requirement in Hong Kong at this time to use the cleaner fuel.

Without a threat of a fine or some other legal consequence, the cruise industry will always choose the least expensive and most environmentally destructive path.

Check out a non-profit group's Facebook page about ship pollution in Hong Kong.

There are some interesting photos of ships polluting the port with deadly smoke, including the Star Pisces (photo above right).  Don't be fooled that this is just a problem over in Hong Kong. Star Cruises has maintained a large ownership of Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Lines for years.    

The article explains that Hong Kong’s air pollution is a major health threat and results in deaths in the city estimated between 1,200 and 3,00 per year.

Pier Luigi Foschi Costa - Carnival AsiaAt a cruise forum last week, Pier Luigi Foschi, the chief executive of Carnival Asia, objected to the requirement for cruise ships to use shore-side power. He said it is unrealistic to require ships to use on-shore power because many cruise ships are not equipped to be plugged in. That begs the question why at this late date all cruise ships don't have a big cable that can be hooked up to the clean electrical power at the ports around the world.  

You may recall Mr. Foschi was the CEO of Costa Crociere when the Concordia crashed last year.  I'm not so sure I would give much weight to anything he says.   

 

Photo Credit:

Top: Star Pisces - Hong Kong Pollution Watch Facebook Page

Princess Cruises Fined for Dumping 66,000 Gallons of Chlorinated Water into Glacier Bay in Alaska

KTOO news station in Alaska reports today that the Environmental Protection Agency fined Princess Cruises $20,000 for dumping water from six swimming pools aboard the Golden Princess cruise ship into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in 2011.

The EPA announced the fine against the cruise line yesterday.

Princess was forced to sign a consent agreement admitting responsibility and subjecting itself to a final court order. Princess admitted that it violated the Clean Water Act in May 2011 when it discharged Princess Cruises Pollution Glacier Bay Alaskamore than 66,000 gallons of pool water into the pristine waters of Glacier Bay.

Princess Cruises claims that a "software malfunction," on the Golden Princess, somehow caused all six of the pool valves to open. This dumped chlorinated water from all of the cruise ship’s pools as well as whirlpools into the national park and preserve.

The waste-water permits for large cruise ships prohibit the discharge of pool and spa water in national parks and refuges. 

The fine comes at a time when the Governor of Alaska is agreeing to roll back the strict water emission laws of Alaska as urged by the cruise industry

Princess Cruises has the worst environmental record in the Alaskan waters, and has been caught discharging illegal levels of waste water over the recent years.  Before the state of Alaska began passing strict environmental laws, the cruise industry openly dumped raw sewage and chemicals throughout the Alaskan waters.   

Cruise Ships Turn British Columbia Waters into "Toilet Bowel of Raw Sewage"

The Vancouver Sun published a provocative headline this weekend entitled "B.C. Waters a Toilet Bowl of Raw Sewage."

It caught my attention after my family just returned from a vacation from British Columbia, where my kids surfed and we went whale watching in the B.C. waters.

Environmentalists' believe that waters off British Columbia in Canada are the "toilet bowl of North America" as dozens of cruise ships heading to and from Alaska dump sewage in Canadian waters.  U.S. regulations in states like Alaska and Washington have tightened in the last decade Cruise Ship Pollution - Waste Water - Black Water - Grey Waterforcing cruise ships to follow stringent sewage treatment rules before disposing of waste those states.

The article indicates that cruise ships have another option: they can dump sewage and grey water —waste water from showers, sinks and laundry — into B.C. waters where rules are "lax."

Cruise ships are taking advantage of Canada's weaker laws on sewage discharge to save money.

"B.C. is now the toilet bowl of the West Coast of North America. In Canada, says Ross Klein, a professor in Canada.  Klein points out that Alaska and Washington monitors grey water discharges, but there is no such monitoring in Canada where cruise ships are free to dump.

The article points out that the U.S. cracked down on cruise ships in 2007 when the Mercury cruise ship operated by Celebrity Cruises was caught illegally dumping into waters between Washington and Vancouver Island.

The Mercury faced 10 charges, but three charges were dropped because the infractions were in Canada.  Celebrity received a $100,000 fine in Washington, but didn't face any punishment in Canada.

I have written many articles about the cruise industry's practice of pollution  Here are a few to consider:

Earth Day - Spotlight on Cruising - A Dirty Business

Cruise Industry: "Notorious Polluters"

Reason No. 8 Not To Cruise: Blackwater, Blackwater, Blackwater

Reason No. 9 Not To Cruise: Bunker Fuel - Nasty Tar Sludge!

Dirty Cruise Industry Tries to Wiggle Out Of Clean Air Law

When I began practicing maritime law, cruise lines openly dumped raw sewage into the water and threw hundreds of black garbage bags overboard during every cruise.  Only through the enactment and enforcement of legislation has there been an improvement in the U.S.   But the cruise lines are free to pollute in the waters of countries like Canada and the powerless Caribbean islands which are desperate for U.S. tourist dollars.  

 

Credits:

Cruise Ship Cartoon      Shields via EarthIsland.org and Campaign to Safeguard America's Waterways

Cruise Industry Retaliates Against Green Water Scientist

Newspapers in Alaska are reporting that the cruise industry is behind the sudden removal of a highly qualified green water scientist from an advisory council on cruise ship waste water discharge.

Gershon Cohen - Cruise Pollution - AlaskaIn December 2009, the Alaskan Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") invited environmental scientist Gershon Cohen to join the state's cruise ship waste water treatment science panel.  The advisory panel has 11 members, with experts in naval architecture, marine engineering and waste water treatment. A representative of the cruise industry sits on the panel as well.

However, the DEC Commissioner, Larry Hartig, disinvited Cohen due to what is described in the newspapers as "corporate influence and pressure" by the cruise industry.

Dr. Cohen is one of the foremost experts in the world on water pollution and clean water technologies.  He has a background in biological sciences, with a Masters Degree in Molecular Biology.  He also is educated in water policy law, with a Ph.D. in Environmental Policy.  Dr. Cohen co-founded the Alaska Clean Water Alliance (ACWA) in 1992, which played a lead role in numerous successful clean-water campaigns. Dr. Cohen founded the Campaign to Safeguard America's Waters (C-SAW), a project of the Earth Island Institute in 1998, to protect public waters from the discharge of toxic pollutants.

In response to Dr. Cohen's unceremonious ouster, a group of Democratic legislators have written a letter to Governor Parnell, complaining of the "corporate abuse" by the cruise lines, and requesting that Dr. Cohen be re-instated. In an article entitled "Lawmakers Call on Parnell to Reinstate Dismissed Scientist," Senator Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, is quoted as stating:

"That is not how we should be doing business . . . When we're talking about positions that deal with  sensitive environmental issues, the protection of Alaska waters, the protection of Alaska lands we should not be letting industry dictate who's on commissions, who's on panels—absolutely, positively not." 

Pristine Waters - Alaska - Gershon Cohen - Cruise Ship PollutionCruise lines are not happy with Dr. Cohen because, as a clean water advocate, he has spent decades advising Alaska about cruise ship water discharge.  In 2006, he was successful in assisting the state of Alaska in adopting an initiative to protect Alaskan waters by requiring the placement of "Ocean Rangers" on cruise ships to monitor discharges.  This program has been successful in preventing cruise lines from dumping pollutants into Alaskan waters and catching them when they do.  There have been 30 violations of Alaska Wastewater Quality Standards by cruise lines in the last six months alone, mostly by Princess Cruises which repeatedly discharged high levels of ammonium and fecal matter into Alaska's pristine waters.  

Getting Dr. Cohen fired from the panel was pay back by the cruise industry. 

The editorials in the Alaskan newspapers unanimously oppose the cruise industry's behind-the-scenes removal of Dr. Cohen.

In an editorial "Our View: Odd Firing," the Anchorage Daily News reports: "It's hard to imagine a more qualified applicant. He stands out among Alaska environmentalists for his thorough knowledge of cruise ship wastewater issues . . . Cohen likely would push for the best available technology, period, and as soon as possible."

We have seen the cruise industry maneuver behind the scenes in the past to try and protect its interests. 

In 2007 when Congress was studying the problem of shipboard sexual assaults, our client Laurie Dishman was invited by a Congressional sub-committee to testify regarding her horrific experience of being strangled and raped on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  When she reported the crime, the cruise ship doctor gave her a garbage bag and told her to go back to her cabin and collect the evidence herself.   The cruise line thereafter refused to provide her with the name of the rapist or even provide her with copies of her own shipboard medical records. When Royal Caribbean realized that Ms. Dishman had contacted her Congresswoman and was going to be testify, it lobbied certain Congressional members to strike Ms. Dishman from the panel.  It failed.  As a result of Ms. Dishman's testimony, the House of Representatives passed the "Cruise Safety and Security Act of 2009."   

The people of Alaska face a easy choice.  Do you want an expert who has the education, training and experience to protect your pristine waters?    Or will you let the Miami based cruise industry - which is still polluting your waters - dictate the quality of your air and water by making deals behind closed doors?  As concluded by the Anchorage Daily News: 

"One of the primary reasons Alaska cruising may well be the world's cleanest is because activists like Cohen have fought for it. The industry may not welcome him -- but that's no reason for the state to throw him off the panel."

 Cruise Ship Pollution - Alaska

 

We have written about cruise ship dumping, cruise waste discharges and air emissions, and the cruise industry's shenanigans in Alaska in prior articles:   

Cruise Ship Bunker Fuel - "Thick, Tarry Sludge"

New Report Details Cruise Industry's Record of Pollution

Polluting Cruise Industry Files Lawsuit to Avoid Alaskan Tax

The "Alaska" Cruise Association's Lawsuit Against Alaska - Pay Back By Tax-Avoiding Miami Cruise Lines

Carnival Announces Quarterly Profits of $1,100,000,000 - But Pushes Lawsuit Against Alaska Over $50 Tax

Cruise Industry Exaggerates Effect of $50 Alaska Tax and Hides Financial Information

 

Credits:

Dr. Cohen photograph                                   Conservation Institute

Kayak in Alaskan waters photograph            Conservation Institute

New Report Details Cruise Industry's Record of Pollution

A report entitled "Getting a Grip on Cruise Pollutionreleased today by the Friends of the Earth (FOE) organization concludes that the billions of dollars earned by the cruise industry Friends of the Earth - Cruise Ship Pollution each year comes at a significant cost to our nation’s air and water.

The report was
researched and authored by Ross Klein, a Professor and independent expert on cruise ship pollution.  Professor Klein takes a detailed look at the various ways in which the cruise industry has harmed - and continues to harm - the environments in which cruise ships travel.

“This report provides a vital resource to anyone concerned about the cruise industry’s environmental impacts. With today’s launch of the largest cruise ship ever built - Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas - the report shines a light on an industry that has long avoided comprehensive environmental regulation and pollution controls,” said Marcie Keever, FOE's Earth’s Clean Vessels Campaign Director. “Cruise ships continue to dump sewage into our waters and poison our Oasis of the Seas - Pollution - Emissionsair with engines that burn bottom-of-the barrel bunker fuel.”

"Getting a Grip on Cruise Ship Pollution" 
looks at all aspects of the cruise industry, from its pollution streams, to its history of environmental violations, to the modest number of environmental laws that govern the industry. The report also contains a wide-ranging set of policy recommendations, providing solutions for comprehensive environmental reform of the cruise industry.

To learn more, visit the Friends of Earth website.


Resources:

Catalog of cruise industry environmental violations, fines and other incidents: Professor Ross Klein's website CruiseJunkie

Overview of cruise ship pollution from Friends of the Earth website.

Source: Friends of the Earth news release. FOE is the U.S. voice of the world's largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, FOE has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

Credit:

Oasis of the Seas       Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com

Super Ships - Rogues on the High Seas

U.K. 's Mail Online has an informative article in its Sunday edition today addressing the use of bunker fuels by cruise ships and other large shipping vessels entitled "How 16 Ships Create As Much Pollution As All The Cars In The World."

Cruise Pollution - Nasty Deadly Bunker FuelI wrote about the cruise industry's use of bunker fuels in a blog entitled 'Cruise Ship Bunker Fuel - "Thick, Tarry Sludge."  So this is of particular interest to me.

The article is written by an award winning science writer Fred Pearce.  He describes the disgusting practice of these ships using this filthy and deadly fuel:

"We've all noticed it. The filthy black smoke kicked out by funnels on cross-channel ferries, cruise liners, container ships, oil tankers and even tugboats . . .

As ships get bigger, the pollution is getting worse. The most staggering statistic of all is that just 16 of the world’s largest ships can produce as much lung-clogging sulphur pollution as all the world’s cars.

Because of their colossal engines, each as heavy as a small ship, these super-vessels use as Cruise Ships - Filthy Smoke - Bunker Fuelmuch fuel as small power stations.

But, unlike power stations or cars, they can burn the cheapest, filthiest, high-sulphur fuel: the thick residues left behind in refineries after the lighter liquids have been taken. The stuff nobody on land is allowed to use." 

The article addresses the disastrous effects on the environment and the deadly effects on those who breath the lethal smoke.

Mr. Pearce explain that ships are using fuel containing up to 4.5 per cent sulphur. That is 4,500 times more than is allowed in car fuel in Europe.  The largest ships are emitted as much as 5,000 tons of sulphur a year – the same as 50,000,000 cars, each releasing an average of only 100 grams of sulphur a year.

The sulphur comes out of ship funnels as tiny particles which get deep into lungs. The inhaled sulphur causes inflammation of the linings of the lungs, breathing problems, heart disease and cancer.  The major shipping routes of cargo ships and cruise ships bring these deadly emissions right into the port and seaboard cities.  

 

Cuise Ship Bunker Fuel - Pollution

 

Mr. Pearce ends with an ominous conclusion:

"However you look at it, the super-ships are rogues on the high seas, operating under pollution standards long since banished on land; warming the planet and killing its inhabitants."

There are a number of organizations which are trying to address these types of problems.  One is Friends of the Earth whose Twitter name is @foe_us.

 

Credits:

Chart         Fred Pearce (via U.K. 's Mail Online)

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas Arrives in Fort Lauderdale

Royal Caribbean's new "Genesis" class cruise ship, Oasis of the Seas, arrived this morning in Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale, Florida). 

It looks big. 

Here are two videos.  The first by the Miami Herald shows the arrival of the cruise ship in port.  The second by CBS News, featuring Peter Greenberg, is an introductory piece.

Prayers for the safety and security of this cruise ship and its passengers & crew.

 

 

 

Princess' Cult of a Cruise - #FollowMeAtSea Folly

Over the past week, those of you who read my blog but don't Twitter missed the remarkable phenomenon of bickering between a small group of travel bloggers invited by Princess Cruises to promote cruising under the hash tag #followmeatsea - and a larger group of green travelers who could not stomach the wow-cruising-is-amazing tone of the tweets.  

"Bickering" may be an understatement.  The debate was more like the food fight in one of my favorite movies, Animal House.    

And boy did I enjoy it.  

John Belushi - Animal House - Food FightThe first time I read that Princess Cruises was making its foray into social media with #followmeatsea, I knew that it  was going to be a disaster.  

In September, I praised the social media skills of Princess Cruises' sister company P & O Cruises for its use of YouTube by its CEO to provide information and diffuse criticism in "Cruise Lines and Social Media - P & O Cruises Hits A Home Run," but I blasted Princess Cruises for its lack of social web skills. 

The problem with Princess was that it was oblivious to the discussion raging on Twitter when one of its cruise ships caught on fire.  When Princess finally responded days later, it lost credibility by refusing to engage in a conversation on Twitter and by referring the public to its its self-serving and misleading press statements.   

And here we are again.

The green travelers baited the here's-a-free-cruise-so-write-something-nice-about-us bloggers on Princess' Crown Princess with questions about the obvious unsustainability of cruising.  The bloggers were blind-sided.  While Princess's guests were being skewered, Princess ignored the environmental inquiries but chose to re-tweet only the most mundane isn't-this-wonderful tweets by its new friends with comments like "Beautiful!" or "Too funny!"  

When Princess finally responded to the spot-on environmental criticisms, it referred to a statement on its website (circa 2008). But it refused to answer a single question about the use of bunker fuel or its ongoing history of discharge violations which continue to this day. 

With good reason.  Princess has the most deplorable environmental record of any of the 25 cruise lines sailing out of the U.S. over the last couple of months. Lets put the nicely written environmental policies on its slick web site aside for a moment. Take a look at Princess Cruises' actual practices:    

In September, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific  PrincessSapphire Princess and Sea Princess were cited for violating the Alaska Wastewater Quality Standards.  Again, in October, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific Princess, Sapphire Princess and Sea Princess - together with the Golden Princess - were cited for water discharge violations.

This month, the same culprits - the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Sea Princess, Golden Princess and Diamond Princess were busted for pollution.  The charges?  Dumping illegal levels of copper, ammonia, zinc and fecal coliform bacteria into Alaska's pristine waters. It was therefore hard to read one of the bloggers' comments:  

  Kim Mance tweet on behind the scenes Princess Cruises Tour
 

 

 

 

The Norwegian Environmental Officer who charmed the blogger no doubt looked very impressive and convincing in his white uniform. But nothing could be further from the truth. Princess Cruises had bamboozled this nice travel writer and set her up for ridicule.  

Now, I will admit. I tweeted a few grenades into the #followmeatsea debate, asking about the start of a trial in L.A. where a Princess Cruises waiter allegedly sexually assaulted a passenger aboard the Coral Princess, as well as Princess Cruises' nasty practice of dumping insufficiently treated chemicals and feces into Alaska's Cruise Pollutionclean waters.  Princess Cruises ignored these pointed questions, although one brave blogger promised to ask the Environmental Officer about the violations and tweet his answer.  

The problem here is that Princess doesn't realize that it cannot control the debate by inviting a few nice people onto their cruise ship with the hope that they write nice things about the cruise. Todd Lucier wrote an interesting blog on Princess' social media debacle entitled "Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media: Lessons from #followmeatsea."  Deadly Sin #1, according to Mr. Lucier, is "thinking you can control social media."  

Unlike the cult-of-personality cruise community sites like CruiseCritic and CruiseMates where membership requires group-think cheerleading and true cruise critics are banished, the Twitter forum is pure free speech.  Fortunately, there are many free thinkers out there with a healthy dose of cynicism.  Princess Cruises' #followmeatsea happy talk was predestined to turn into a discussion of real issues, which the cruise line was ill-prepared to handle.

The spirited back and forth on Twitter was invigorating.  But I am still waiting for a response from Princess Cruises' Environmental Officer about Princess' last 17 wastewater violations.

 

Credits:

Coral Princess    Barbara Bagnell (via National Post)

#followmeatsea tweet          Todd Lucier     

Royal Caribbean Takes Delivery of "Monster of the Seas"

Federal Agencies Concerned About Cruise Sewage

This morning I read an interesting article regarding the cruise industry's nasty practice of dumping raw sewage just three miles offshore and, sometimes, in state waters.

Fox News ran an article entitled "Federal Agencies Raise Alarm About Cruise Dumping."  Its "fair and balanced" report included some disturbing facts:

"Raw sewage contains disease pathogens and toxins, impairs the respiratory functions in water life, and causes algae blooms. And cruise ships are dumping it just off shore, possibly washing up on the beach near where your family is vacationing."

A report released earlier this decade by the United States Government Accounting Office (GAO) determined that, from 1993 to 1998 alone, cruise ships were involved in 87 confirmed cases of discharges of wastes into U.S. waters, and have paid more than $30 million in fines to the government. The Department of Justice prosecuted Royal Caribbean in 1999, and the company pled guilty to a total of 21 felony counts in six U.S. jurisdictions, agreeing to pay a record $18 million in criminal fines.

The article points out that environmental groups finally have an administration and Congress that are agreeable to tackling the long standing problem of cruise ship water pollution.

I'm not usually a fan of Fox News because of its anti-consumer and conservative rants. But when even Fox News publishes a report like this, you know there is something stinky going on with the cruise industry.

 

Photo credit        AP via FoxNews.com

Cruise Ship Bunker Fuel - "Thick, Tarry Sludge"

I read an interesting articleby a staff writer for the Take Part Blog about nasty discharges by cruise ships.  The article is entilted "Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card Grim."

Hamida Kinge was a 2008/09 Environmental Reporting Fellow for the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting and a 2009 Fellow at the Scripps Howard Institute on the Environment. Her interests include the effects of climate change on coastal communities and island nations and the effects of PCBs and DDT contamination on marine mammal health.

Ms. Kinge explains:

Where most cruise ships travel, dirty air follows. They burn a very thick, tarry petroleum sludge called “bunker fuel,” which can be between 1000 to 2000 times dirtier than diesel fuel. Apart from impacts on the natural environment, such as contributing to climate change and acid rain, bunker fuel has been linked to a number of serious cardiovascular problems and premature death in humans. And when the ships dock, their engines often stay running and the emissions directly impact port communities.

The article also refers to the Friends of the Earth "Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card" which I commented on in a previous blog

From time to time, you will hear about cruise ships "plugging in" when they arrive at port.  This means that they are turning off their engines and switching to the dockside electrical system. 

Most cruise ships can't or don't "plug in."  This leads to an environmental disaster, literally on a daily basis, where  5 or 6 cruise ships sit at a port spewing the emissions from the tar-like bunker fuel into the port cities.

 

Voting for "Worst Cruise Line in the World" Award Ends Soon!

Earlier this month, I announced that I will be awarding the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award to the cruise line demonstrating the worst in gross negligence and indifference towards passenger and crew member health and safety. This will be a monthly award. 

Over the past month, we have received many e-mails nominating a variety of cruise lines and a couple of cruise line tycoons. Mostly passengers have emailed us with a variety of stories, many are just plain sad.  Some of the stories demonstrate such callousness by the cruise lines that your blood will boil.

A few crew members contacted us  Without except they were afraid to reveal their real names in fear of retaliation.

A couple of environmental groups contacted us as well.

So far two cruise lines are vying neck to neck for the award.  After 26 years of being a maritime lawyer I thought that I had seen it all. These two companies have treated their crew members like garbage. At this point, I don't know who is most deserving of the first month's award. 

The voting for this month ends on Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. EST. I will be announcing the winner, er loser, in October.

Feel free to tweet your nominee to me at my Twitter page @CruiseLaw

 

Photo credit:

Cruise Ship Tycoon         Activisim

Carnival Announces Quarterly Profits of $1,100,000,000 - But Pushes Lawsuit Against Alaska Over $50 Tax

Today Carnival issued a press release which reported profits of $1,100,000,000 for the third quarter ending August 31, 2009. The cruise line collected revenues from passengers of over $4,000,000,000 in the last three months.

This announcement of Carnival's over-a-billion-dollars-in-profits comes two days after the Carnival dominated "Alaska" Cruise Association filed a lawsuit against Alaska over the $50-a-passenger tax.

Four days ago, the environmental group "Friends of the Earth" gave Carnival a "D-" on the cruise line environmental scorecard.

What a week for Carnival!  A failing pollution grade, over $1,000,000,000 in quarterly profits, and a lawsuit initiated in Alaska over a $50 tax.

What is wrong with this picture?      

 

 

The "Alaska" Cruise Association's Lawsuit Against Alaska - Pay Back By Tax-Avoiding Miami Cruise Lines

The cruise industry has picked a fight with Alaska over the $50 tax designed to protect the state. The lawsuit, which is posted online, indicates that the lawsuit was filed by a trade organization called, interesting enough, the "Alaska Cruise Association."

"Alaskan Cruise Association" - Made in Miami, Florida 

There is nothing remotely "Alaskan" about the "Alaska Cruise Association" (ACA).  The ACA is comprised of nine cruise lines, none of which are based in Alaska.  Six of the cruise lines - Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean, and Silverseas - are based in Miami or Fort Lauderdale. The other three line, Holland America, Princess, and Windstar Cruises, are all owned by Miami-based Carnival or its subsidiaries.

Even the main lawyer listed on the lawsuit papers, Seattle lawyer Stephen Rummage, is not even admitted to practice law in Alaska. He must petition the court in Alaska for special permission to enter the courthouse in Alaska to argue the case. You can guarantee that the bulk of the ACA's lawyer's fees will be paid by money which can be traced back to Miami. 

Revenge is Sweet

The Miami cruise lines do not like to be regulated and are certainly not used to being taxed.  It is like trying to put a leash on a mean dog.  Someone is going to be bitten.  Yet, Alaska has every right to impose reasonable taxes to protect its pristine environment from the out-of-state polluters like Carnival and Royal Caribbean.   

The lawsuit is revenge against Alaska by Carnival and other cruise lines in South Florida.  Unlike Florida and the struggling islands in the Caribbean which for years have rolled over and played dead for the pollution spewing cruise industry, Alaska has enacted a number of measures to protect the state from  the foreign flagged cruise lines' predatory practices.  Earlier in the year, it was widely reported that the cruise industry was having difficulty convincing the legislators to abolish strict water pollution standards which were approved by Alaskan voters in 2006. 

Like Father, Like Son?

Soon thereafter, Mickey Arison of Carnival began threatening to punish Alaska for the pollution regulations and having the audacity to levy a $50 tax on the passengers who sail on his cruise ships. Any time I hear the word "tax" and "Mickey Arison" in the same sentence, I can't help but to think about Mickey's father, Ted Arison.  He collected billions of dollars from tax paying U.S. passengers and lived the good life in Miami but he registered his Miami based cruise line and his cruise ships in Panama to avoid all U.S. taxes.  In 1990, he abandoned Miami, denounced his U.S. citizenship, and returned to Israel with his billions in a ploy to avoid estate and inheritance taxes.

So here we are again, with the younger Arison leading the charge of the Miami consortium of foreign flagged cruise ships pretending to be an "Alaskan" non-profit organization with Alaska's best interests at heart. A wolf in sheep's clothing. This is pay back by the Miami cruise lines, and business as usual for the latest tax avoiding Miami billionaire.    

 

Photo credit:

Business Week   -    Photo of Mickey Arison         

       

Royal Caribbean's "Monster of the Seas" - a Cruise Ship Only Gordon Gekko Could Love

Cruise fans, travel agents and cruise communities have been abuzz in anticipation of Royal Caribbean's new cruise ship - the "Oasis of the Seas."   "Amazing! . . Wow! . . Look at that!" . . . have been the extent of the popular media's insight into this new super mega ship.    

But a few journalists have questioned the environmental appropriateness of this monster of a cruise ship. In an article entitled "A Titanic for These Times," San Francisco writer Mark Follman concludes that only someone interested in a "decadent vacation cruise" could rationalize boarding what will be the biggest, longest, tallest, widest, heaviest, and most expensive passenger ship ever built.

"Floating Emblem of a Bankrupt Era?"

Follman's intuition is that the experience would be akin to "feasting on a nine-course meal in the middle of an Ethiopian refugee camp."  He cites an article by Rory Nugent in the Atlantic magazine which questions the rationale of building such a monstrosity.  According to the article "Hope Floats," the passengers will consume 560,000 gallons of water a day,  and the ship will burn 12 tons of diesel an hour.  Although Royal Caribbean and the cruise industry's 16,000 travel agents may hope that the Oasis of the Seas will be a success, Mr. Nugent raises the question that the ship "may leave the dock already a dinosaur - a floating emblem of a bankrupt era."

A Corporate Felon That Can't Get It Right 

At a time when only fools question the effect of greenhouse gases, the melting of the Arctic cap, and the need to develop sustainable businesses, Royal Caribbean has spent and mostly borrowed over a billion dollars to create a ship so at odds with the environment that it resembles the monster in the movie Cloverfield.  In 2004, Royal Caribbean came off of a 5 year probation after pleading guilty to felonies for widespread pollution and repeated lying to the U.S. Coast Guard.  Just two days ago, the environmental group 'Friends of the Earth" awarded Royal Caribbean a "F" for the disastrous impact on air and water caused by its cruise ships. 

Three 250 HP Engines on a 37 Foot Boat?

Many corporations take on the personality and values of their leaders. During the publicity build up for the Oasis of the Seas' debut, Royal Caribbean's CEO Richard Fain was interviewed by David Andrews of the U. K.'s "Times Online."  In an article aptly entitled "Biggest is the Best for Cruise Chief,"  Mr. Fain reveals his rivalry with Carnival and the need to "give his business the ascendancy again . . . the Royal Caribbean International brand . . . will be bigger than anything Carnival can compete with."

After finishing the article, I felt that I had just read the lines for Gordon Gekko ("greed is good") in the 1987 movie Wall Street

 

The article ends with Mr. Fain mentioning his 37 foot powerboat - “it’s got three 250hp Yamaha engines, goes 52mph  . . . "

750 hp on a 37 foot boat?  I suppose that's more economical than the 100-megawatt power grid and 3,300 miles of electrical cables on his new monster of a cruise ship.

 

 

Photo credit - Oasis of the Seas - Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, via San Francisco Chronicle ("Oasis of the Seas is a real ocean monster")

Polluting Cruise Industry Files Lawsuit to Avoid Alaskan Tax

KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage Alaska reports that the cruise industry has filed suit to avoid paying Alaska's head count tax.  In an article entitled "Sources: Cruise Ship Industry Files Suit Over Head Tax," Channel 2 reports that cruise lines are trying to avoid the $46 infrastructure tax levied at Alaska ports which the cruise ships use. The cruise industry will undoubtedly argue that the State of Alaska does not have the authority to levy taxes against foreign flagged cruise ships. 

The lawsuit has been a long time coming.  For the past year, Mickey Arison has been threatening to use Carnival's army of lawyers to sue Alaska to avoid the tax.  There is a tradition in the Arison family of avoiding taxes.  His father, Ted Arison, earned billions running his cruise empire from Miami.  After retirement, the senior Arison denounced his U.S. citizenship and returned to Israel to try and prevent the United States from collecting estate and inheritance taxes.  

The timing of the lawsuit in Alaska is odd.  Yesterday, an environmental organization called the Friends of the Earth issued what they are calling the Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card.  The report card grades the cruise lines' impact on the air and water.  I first learned of the report in an article entitled which cruise lines are the biggest polluters? written by travel expert Anita Dunham - Potter. Carnival received a "D-" and Royal Caribbean received a "F."      

The tar-like bunker fuels these cruise ships burn are nasty.  And the sewage and waste waters discharged  into the water are gross.  Unlike Florida which is beholden to the cruise industry with its anything goes mentality, states like Alaska and California have demonstrated an environmental commitment to the quality of the air and water in their states' jurisdiction.  The cruise industry already does not pay U.S. taxes because they register their companies and flag their cruise ships in places like Liberia and Panama.  To quibble over a nominal tax designed to protect Alaska and its infrastructure is just the same old greed that this industry is known for.       

The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) responded to the bad grades of its members by attacking the environmental group.  In its new PR website called "Cruise Industry Facts," CLIA proclaimed: "fortunately, Friends of the Earth has no authority in the matter."

That pretty much sums up the cruise industry's attitude.  Environmental group - no authority.  We scoff at the notion that you can monitor or grade us.  State of Alaska - no authority.  You can't tax us.  You can't control us.  We will use the tax-free $30 billion we collect from U.S. tax-paying passengers each year to sue to avoid your measly tax, and then we will crap in your pristine waters.      

 

Photo credit      Friends of the Earth, via @ExpertCruiser