Brazilian Cruise Pollution Debate Continues: Sewage or Silt?

A week ago we discussed a controversy which erupted in Brazil when around 60 bathers on Turtle Beach in the beautiful resort town of Buzios became ill. Government officials suspected that a cruise ship discharged noxious liquids and waste into the waters. 

A newspaper in Brazil, Globo, covered the story and posted aerial photographs of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with discolored water around it.  It looked to me that the muddy-looking water was probably sand and silt which had been churned up by the vessel's engines. We posted the photos on line. The issue nonetheless remained what made the bathers at the beach so sick?

Brazil took samples of the contaminated water at the beach, as well as samples from several cruise ships in the area. The test results were inconclusive. The cruise association in Brazil denies that any of the cruise ships discharged anything and maintains that all ships comply with international maritime standards addressing the discharge of waste water.

The controversy reported in the press has led to at least one cruise passenger coming forward to claim that other cruise ships may be fouling the waters in Brazil.

Globo reports that cruise passenger Jesus Alcinir, age 50, from Panama, was sailing on the MSC Orchestra with his family last November to Buzios. He observed what he believed was a nasty looking and terribly smelling liquid that seemed to leave the ship. He took a photograph which you can see below.

He told Globo: "I was watching the sea. That transparent color, that blue sea with green, when out of nowhere this spot that seemed to come out of our ship emerged. The smell was very strong at the time and I was upset to hear that it could be some fluid that would be polluting the environment."

A crew member said that because the ship just stopped and lowered an anchor, silt would have been disrupted and muddied the water.

Passenger Alcinar was unconvinced, particularly because of the strong smell. 

I suppose that the smell could have been from the muck and perhaps decomposing organic material like seaweed. I would also think that if the cruise ship was going to illegally open its bilges, it would do so at night while the ship was underway. 

No samples were taken of the water. 

Being accused of discharging waste in Brazilian waters in the last thing that MSC needs. Last December we posted a video of MSC crew members seemingly throwing garbage bags in the water near a marine sanctuary in Brazil. 

Sewage or silt? Join the discussion on our Facebook page.

MSC Orchestra Cruise Ship

Photo Credit: Jesus Alcinir via Globo

The 6 A.M. Knock

Like any employee, crew members are not immune from being terminated. But termination on a cruise ship is a bit different from being fired at a regular job. It's like being fired and kicked out of your apartment all at once.

Better known as the "6 AM knock," crew members wake up to the ship’s security officers, banging at their cabin door, and delivering the news that the crew member must leave the vessel immediately.

Within about an hour, the terminated crew member must gather all of his or her personal belongings, hand in the ship cards, pay-off any shipboard debts, and walk off the gangway.  In most cases the crew Crew Member Rights - Cruise Shipsmember is are not given any explanation as to why she is being instructed to leave. A meeting is not set up with their superiors or the captain discussing the grounds for termination. Worst of all, the fired crew member doesn’t even know what legal rights she has in this kind of situation (that’s assuming there are any rights at all).

Typically once a crew member “rocks the boat," the cruise line finds a way to dispose of the problem immediately. All it really takes is aggravating the right people or protesting unfair treatment. Alcohol and drug tests are a good tool cruise lines use to make a case to fire a crew member. Most cruise lines have an alcohol and drug policy that allows them to conduct random tests. Security knocks on the crew member’s door, and hands the employee a little plastic bottle for urine testing.  

This is all done while the security officers wait outside the bathroom located in the crew member’s cabin. If this isn’t invasive enough, the bathroom door must remain open just a crack to ensure that the crew member doesn’t taint the sample. Can you feel the trust?

Interestingly, the results of these tests are never given to the crew member. It is not even clear where the sample goes once handed to the security officers. It is important to point out that I am writing from personal experience here. I have also spoken to several other crew members who were terminated and their stories are pretty much on par with my experience.

On any given night a hundred crew members could fail such a test, but the tests are often reserved for those who are vocal in criticizing procedures or who complain about sexual harassment or unlawful conduct.

What happens once the crew member walks off the gangway? Cruise lines tend to terminate a crew Crew Gangway - Cruise Shipsmember when the ship is docked in a non-U.S. port. Although the flight is arranged and paid for by the cruise line, the crew member is rushed off the ship and sometimes has to board the flight in less than 2 hours. Once the crew member is off the gangway, they are no longer the cruise line’s responsibility. If the crew member misses her flight, she has to pay out-of-pocket for a new ticket. 

Employment on cruise ships is considered "at will" employment, meaning at the will of the employer. There is a saying in the cruise industry that a crew member can be terminated for good cause, bad cause or no cause. Maritime legal rights are virtually non-existent when the crew member is terminated.

Cruise lines don’t like problems. They don’t want crew members who will “make waves.” As soon as a crew member is labeled as a “problem,” they can expect a knock on the door around 6:00 AM.    

 

Cruise Law Miami FloridaThis blog was written by Danielle Gauer who worked as a dancer for several years on cruise ships prior to embarking on her university studies. She is currently completing her Juris Doctor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and will be sitting for the Ontario, Canada Bar admission examinations this June. 

Prior to law school, Danielle (middle, with Jonathan Aronson left, and Jim Walker right) was the recipient of the Ryerson University Gold Medal and H.H. Kerr Memorial Scholarship for high academic standing.

You can read Danielle's prior guest blogs below:

So You Want to Dance on the High Seas?

Life Below Deck 4: What Passengers Don't Know & the Cruise Lines Won't Tell Them

Cruising, "Eh!" to Z! What Canadians Should Know Before Getting On-Board . . .
 

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

"Most Wanted" for Cruise Ship Pollution: Royal Caribbean Chief Engineer Michael Psomadakis - But Is He Really The Only Culprit?

Do you know this former Royal Caribbean crew member?

He's on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s "Most Wanted" List. Here's the story:

In 1993, Michael Evangelos Psomadakis was the chief engineer aboard RCCL's Nordic Empress cruise ship which routinely discharged oil into the water. But the Nordic Empress was no island to itself.  RCCL's fleet of ships was regularly dumping pollutants from Biscayne Bay here in Miami to the pristine waters in Alaska.

The pollution was right outside of the cruise executives' offices at the port of Miami all of the way to Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Pollution Alaska and back.  I can't imagine the abuse of the waters in Europe, Africa, and South America.

There were many Psomadakis's throughout the RCCL fleet of cruise ships.  

Psomadakis - like his employer Royal Caribbean - lied to the Coast Guard about the pollution. A big mistake. This was no Bush administration with its let's-trust-the-big-corporations-and-look-the-other-way mentality. The U.S. justice system, under the leadership of environmentalist Janet Reno, investigated Royal Caribbean and discovered that many RCCL cruise ships were dumping oil & chemicals throughout their routes. A nasty business. Ms. Reno caught the Royal Caribbean bad boys under the corporate leadership of CEO Richard Fain, who claimed to know nothing, with their proverbial pants down.   

Attorney General Reno slammed the cruise line, calling the cruise line "flim-flam" artists. She oversaw the imposition of penalties totaling $27,000,000 for engaging in a "fleet wide conspiracy . . . to save millions of dollars by dumping oily waste into the ocean," according to the the New York Times.

The case was prosecuted here in U.S. courts even though the cruise line claimed that the U.S. had no authority because the company was registered in Liberia and the cruise ship flew a flag of convenience in Liberia (and Liberia had already dismissed the case of course).

Psomadakis escaped FBI agents at a Miami hotel "simply by walking out another exit," as reported by the New York Times. He got away from the FBI and made it back to back to Greece all by himself?

At the end of the day, Royal Caribbean admitted it was a corporate felon, no only for the illegal discharges but for systematically lying to the Coast Guard and Attorney General's office for years. The New York Times article covered the story

If you are interested in what the environment would be like without the U.S. government regulating a renegade Liberian-incorporated-corporation like Royal Caribbean, take a read of the New York Times article here.   

The problem was that Royal Caribbean didn't change it's ways. After the first two million-dollar-fines, Royal Caribbean continued to illegally discharge oil, waste and fecal matter everywhere.  The illegal discharges even increased, reflecting the arrogance of the Liberian holier-than-thou corporation. The cruise line responded with a bogus marketing campaign claiming that it was an environmental steward Royal Caribbean Save the Waves - Cruise Ship Pollution of the seas.  It adopted a PR campaign that it was "Saving the Waves" (see photo) by encouraging its employees (and guests) not to throw any garbage overboard.

But while the crew members wore their "Save the Waves" buttons above deck and served passengers cocktails, Royal Caribbean engineers below the decks fabricated secret by-pass values to dump everything from raw sewage to chemicals used in the photography labs directly into the ocean.  Do you really believe that the cruise executives didn't know?

Fifteen years later, CEO Fain and President Goldstein are still at the helm of the cruise line. Fall guy Psomadakis is on the lam. Yeah, an engineer from Greece is the real culprit behind the wide spread fleet-wide dumping and defiance of the U.S government. 

The most recent news from this cruise lines?  Royal Caribbean will soon deliver us another ostentatious, Oasis-class, bunker-fuel burning, polluting, gigantic cruise ship, ordered by the least environmentally friendly, flim-flam cruise line in the industry.    

California Ban On Cruise Dumping To Be Enforced

The San Jose Mercury News reports that the Obama administration will enforce a California law designed to prohibit cruise ships from dumping any kind of sewage -- even highly filtered wastewater -- along California's coast out to three miles from shore.

California will now have among the strictest laws in the nation limiting pollution from large ships.

"This is going to cover the entire California coastline," said state Senator Joe Simitian "Oceangoing vessels should not consider our coastline a place for dumping sewage."

In 2005, Simitian wrote a bill that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger which signed banning sewage discharges in state waters from cruise ships. The bill -- the first of its kind in the nation -- made it Crystal Harmony - Pollution - Dumping Sewageillegal for such ships to discharge oily bilge water, "gray water" from sinks and showers and other hazardous waste. But a key provision that also banned sewage releases could not legally take effect until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave permission under the federal Clean Water Act.  The Bush administration did not act on California's request to enforce the state law.

The impetus behind the bill was a cruise dumping incident in In 2003.  The Crystal Harmony (photo left) dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay.  

According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said didn't have to report the incident to authorities because it broke no laws. It is "perfectly legal" under maritime laws to discharge even untreated wastewater more than 12 miles offshore, and the ship was 14 miles offshore at the time, said Crystal spokeswoman Mimi Weisband. 

"We didn't break any law," Weisband said. "We did break a promise."

The city of Monterey thereafter banned all Crystal cruise ships for life. 

"I remember picking up the paper and thinking, 'you gotta be kidding me,' " Senator Simitian said. "Their answer was 'we didn't break any rules.' I remember thinking, if this isn't against the law it ought to be."

In the 2010 Green Report Card by the environmental group Friends of the Earth, Crystal Cruises received the lowest grade - "F."   Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded by saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A ... if not an A+."

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

Preparation for a trial delayed our "Top 10 Reasons Not To Cruise."  But here we go again with the reasons why you should think twice before spending your hard earned vacation dollars on a family cruise. Here's reason no. 8: 

BLACKWATER!

That nasty raw sewage which cruise lines can freely dump - completely untreated - just twelve miles from shore.  Yes, just twelve miles from that lovely beach you may be sitting on in Florida, or the marshes of South Carolina, or the oyster beds of Alabama.  Nasty, stinking feces from several thousands of passengers eating incredible amounts of food around the clock on hundreds of cruise ships each day.  

"Blackwater" is sewage, waste water from urinals and toilets, and waste from medical facilities.  Gross stuff.  It contains pathogens, viruses including norovirus (when an outbreak on the ship occurs), bacteria, and intestinal parasites. According to Friends of the Earth, a cruise ship on a one week voyage is estimated to generate 210,000 gallons (or 5 large swimming pools) of human sewage.

A cruise ship also generates 1 million gallons (33 more swimming pools) of gray water (water from sinks, baths, showers, laundry, and galleys).  Cruise ships also generate large volumes of oily bilge water, sewage sludge, garbage and hazardous wastes. 

The cruise lines say that they usually (but not always) treat blackwater to "reduce" the fecal materials from toilets before dumping the waste into the oceans.  But the problem is that these devices (when used) do not eliminate the fecal matter.  "Marine sanitation systems," in particular, just don't work. 

Cruise Ship Pollution - Blackwater - Discharge Just last Fall, Princess Cruises, repeatedly violated Alaskan waster water regulations:    

In September, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific  PrincessSapphire Princess and Sea Princess were cited for violating the Alaska waste water 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.

In November, the same culprits - the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Sea Princess, Golden Princess and Diamond Princess were busted for pollution.

Two weeks ago, on Earth Day, the New York Times rightfully called the cruise industry "Notorious Polluters".  Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian cruise lines are all corporate felons for dumping untreated sewage and oily discharges and falsifying their log books to cover the crime up.   

The cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) which has spent $8,000,000 in the last two years lobbying against Congressional oversight, wrote a letter to the New York Times.  Upset about the "notorious polluters" label, CLIA claimed that "cruise lines have a vested interest in the pristine environments they visit, and they take their stewardship responsibility very seriously."

When I hear PR rubbish like this, I remember what Attorney General Reno Reno said when she  leveled felony charges against Royal Caribbean for its repeated pollution, cover-ups, and lies:

".  .  . at the same time that their ships were sailing into the inland passage of Alaska, one of the most sensitive and beautiful eco-systems in our nation, their crew members were wearing buttons that said, 'Save the Waves.'  That's what they were wearing above deck.  Below deck, business as usual was going on and oily contaminated bilge water was being dumped overboard . . ."  

The LA Times also reported the Attorney General stating:

"Royal Caribbean used our nation's waters as its dumping ground even as it promoted itself as an environmentally 'green' company . . . " 

Just last week the cruise industry intimidated the state of Alaska with pulling its cruise ships if it didn't reduce taxes and relax many of its pollution controls. Take a moment and read "Alaska Reduces Taxes and Relaxes Pollution Standards For Bullying Cruise Lines." 

This is also an industry which retaliated against a "Green Water" Scientist so it could avoid pollution regulations. 

As a result of the cruise industry's lobbying and back-room deals, cruise ships are continuing to dump ammonia (from fecal matter), copper, nickel and zinc in Alaska's pristine waters.  

Stewardship responsibility?

What a joke.

 

For other information, consider reading:

Can Sick Cruise Ships Cause Norovirus Outbreaks in Ports?

Cruise Ships in South Carolina - Harmless Fun or Environmental Scourge?

Cruise Lines Urged to Shrink Their Footprints (New York Times)

 

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

Alaska Reduces Taxes and Relaxes Pollution Standards For Bullying Cruise Lines

The Juneau Empire reports that Alaska just weakened its wastewater regulations at the cruise industry's request.  Cruise ships are now permitted to dump greater amount of ammonia (from fecal matter), copper, nickel and zinc in Alaska's pristine waters.

The newspaper reports that the cruise industry is "pleased" and  and "appreciates" the new wastewater discharge rules.

The cruise industry bullied Alaska, threatening the state with pulling cruise ships from Alaska if the wastewater standards were not relaxed.  Some cruise lines planned to reduce time in the ports in Alaska, so that they could sail outside of state waters and dump wastewater without being subject to Alaska's strict standards.

Cruise Ship Pollution - Wastewater - EmissionsCruise lines have been toying with Alaska even since its citizens passed an initiative to increase taxes and enact wastewater regulations to protect Alaskan waters from massively polluting cruise ships.  On Earth Day last week, the New York Times characterized cruise lines as "notorious polluters."  

The cruise industry is having its way with Alaska at this point.

It's agenda was first to wiggle out of Alaska's taxes, but the tax issue was never about whether the $46 head tax was too high.  The cruise lines didn't pay the tax in the first place.  Cruise passengers did.  It is ludicrous to suggest that a family would decide to cruise if the tax were $34 but not cruise at $46.

The real issue has always been the issue of whether the cruise industry would permit a state like Alaska to regulate it.  State of the art pollution technology is expensive.  Cruise lines don't pay any Federal taxes on the $35,000,000,000 they collect on fares each year from tax paying Americans. They don't want to set a precedent of allowing states to impose standards to protect their natural resources.  It's cheaper to pollute.

Earlier this year, the cruise industry twisted the arms of some of the Republican legislators in Alaska and kicked green water scientist Gershon Cohen off of the state's wastewater panel.  This was pay back for Mr. Cohen's work in passing the regulations which strengthened  Alaska's environmental regulations.  With Mr. Cohen removed from the panel, it was easy pickings to gut the pollution standards to benefit the polluters.     

A few weeks ago, Alaska announced it was reducing it's "head tax" on cruise passenger by 25%.  Today, it has relaxed its pollution regulations.  All of this is working exactly as the cruise industry planned after a year of threats and lawsuits. 

The Juneau Empire printed a letter from an Alaskan reader "Beaten Up By Bullies."

It's amazing to see how a "notorious polluting" Miami-based industry which collects $35 billion a year tax-free can threaten and bully Alaska to get exactly what it wants - reduced state taxes, relaxed pollution laws, and more profits . . .

 

For additional information, consider reading:

Polluting Cruise Industry Tries Again to Avoid Alaskan Regulations

 

 

Credits:

Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship    AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream

Cruise Industry: "Notorious Polluters"

Today - Earth Day - is special because our maritime law firm works in a specialized area of the law.  Everything we handle is related to the world's oceans and seas.  Earlier today, our  superstar legal intern, Caitlin Burke, wrote an excellent article entitled Earth Day - Spotlight on Cruising - A Dirty Business.

We know that whenever we write a really good blog about the disastrous effect of cruise ships on the environment, a cruise fanatic sends us a scathing email or calls to complain.  Today was no exception. Our firm has over 7,500 followers on it's  CruiseLaw Twitter page.  Shortly after Caitlin published her article on cruise pollution, several long time Twitter cruise fans immediately "unfollowed" us and an equal number of environmentalists became our new "friends" on Twitter. 

Earth Day - Cruise Pollution - Bunker FuelThis type of connection to the internet is a good barometer whether our Cruise Law News articles are effective and "hitting the mark."  

After Caitlin's article came out, the New York Times ran an interesting article entitled "In Antarctic Waters" which discussed the International Maritime Organization's announcement that large cruise ships will no longer be allowed to burn "heavy fuel" (nasty bunker fuel) in Antarctic waters.

The New York Times welcomed this as a "step in protecting the harsh but delicate polar environment."  

The high-sulfur fuel used by cruise ships emit highly polluting and unhealthy particles into the air, and present a potential disaster if the fuel is spilled.  Cruise lines use bunker fuels because the cruise industry is largely unregulated  and the fuel is cheap, even though it has a disastrous effect on humans and the environment.

The New York Times writes:

"The ban on high-sulfur fuel in Antarctica, which begins in August 2011, will effectively end visits by cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers. It will also reduce the total number of Antarctic passenger visits from more than 15,000 a year to about 6,400, all of whom will be traveling on smaller, lighter and greener ships.

This is an important step and a welcome respite for the waters. And it will help drive the cruise industry - notorious polluters - to re-examine its essential mission.

After all, what’s the point of visiting the natural wonders of the nautical world if you leave a terrible stain behind when you leave?"

Earth Day - Spotlight on Cruising - A Dirty Business

Bunker Fuel - Air Pollution - Cruise ShipsCaitlin Burke returns as a guest blogger today to discuss environmental issues and the cruise industry.  We have written many articles about cruise ships and the problem with pollution

Black water, gray water, oily bilge water, sewage, bunker fuel, smokestack exhaust . . . all discharging and billowing out of cruise ships and into our ocean and air. 

According to Friends of the Earth, a large cruise ship (the largest of which can carry over 5,000 passengers and crew) on a one week voyage is estimated to generate 210,000 gallons (or 5 large swimming pools) of human sewage and 1 million gallons (33 more swimming pools) of gray water (water from sinks, baths, showers, laundry, and galleys). Cruise ships also generate large volumes of oily bilge water, sewage sludge, garbage and hazardous wastes.

The few international regulations which apply to cruise ship discharges and emissions are archaic and are ignored by the cruise industry with little consequence.  

A few states, like Alaska, have strict state guidelines. But take a look at Cruise Junkie’s website and see how often cruise lines "comply" with waste water restrictions. A quick browse of the list leads to the conclusion that cruise ships are not so eco-friendly.

Oceania reports that "cruise ships are one of the largest sources of unregulated ocean pollution and exempt from the discharge permitting program of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s preeminent water pollution control law." Oceania further reports that "this means that the monitoring, inspection, reporting, and enforcement provisions of this law do not apply to cruise ships ... As a result, the public has no way of knowing whether or not they are following their corporate environmental policies."

The cruise industry’s practices has the attention of Congress. Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Sam Farr are on a mission to change the cruise industry. In October 2009, these Earth Day - Cruise PollutionCongressmen introduced two bills in both Houses of Congress to prevent cruise ships from discharging raw (untreated) sewage in U.S. coastal waters. Congressman Farr released a statement that "laws currently allowing cruise lines to dump untreated sewage three miles from the shore endangers public health, the environment and the economy."

Senator Durbin introduced "Durbin’s Bill," which will extend the Clean Water Act to regulate cruise ship wastewater. Congressman Farr introduced an almost identical bill. 

Both bills are commonly referred to as the Clean Cruise Ship Act.

In honor of Earth Day, I encourage you to do some research regarding the cruise industry’s practices of discharging waste and emitting bunker fuel particles.  Support the Clean Cruise Ship Act.  Make certain that you do your part to protect our waters and the air we breath.

"Generations come and generations go, but the Earth is forever."

Cruise Ships - Slick Marketing - Serious Pollution

For additional information, watch the Friends of the Earth Video "Investigating Cruise Ship Pollution."  

 

Credits:

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

Smokestack                  ScienceDaily.com

 

Polluting Cruises Lines Oppose Clean Air Law

The cruise industry is preparing to fight against clean air regulations which will protect the U.S. and Canada from the nasty bunker fuels burned by hundreds of cruise ships.

Reuters reports that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is proposing a plan to create a buffer zone around the U.S. and Canada which will require low emissions from cruise ships. 

 

 

We have reported on the cruise industry's use of high-sulfur bunker fuels in prior articles:

Cruise Ship Bunker Fuel - "Thick, Tarry Sludge"

Super Ships - Rogues on the High Seas

Polluting Cruise Industry Tries Again to Avoid Alaskan Regulations

The Reuters article explains that the proposed "Emissions Control Area" will extend 200 nautical miles around the coast of the two nations and set stringent new limits on air pollution from ocean-going ships beginning in 2015.

The use of high sulfur fuel creates environmental and health problems.  In a prior article, we explained that cruise ships are using fuel containing up to 4.5 per cent sulfur. That is 4,500 times more than is allowed in car fuel in Europe.  The largest ships emit as much as 5,000 tons of sulfur a year – the same as 50,000,000 cars, each releasing an average of only 100 grams of sulfur a year.

The sulfur comes out of ship funnels as tiny particles which are embedded deep into your lungs. The inhaled sulfur 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.  

Take a look at the photograph below of Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas - smoking up a port in Alaska with bunker fuel.  Nasty.  Nasty.  Nasty.  

Holland America Line's CEO, Stein Kruse, complained that the new air law "essentially means all the current fuel that we burn cannot be burned within 200 miles." 

Exactly.

Bunker Fuel - Cruise Pollution

 March 22, 2010 Update:

TreeHugger.com has an interesting article - Cruise Liner Pollution Kills Up To 8,300 People a Year in US and Canada, says EPA:

". . . the EPA argues that adopting the pollution controls would clear the air of particulates in port cities--and would save 8,300 lives a year. Which would mean that unregulated pollution from cruise lines is currently killing 8,300 people a year in the US and Canada . . .

Of course, the cruise industry execs are crying foul--they complain that the pollution controls would force them to pay up to 40% more for low sulfur fuels, and that they would no longer be able to burn any of the fuels they currently use within 200 miles of land. To which I say, Good. 

To cruise ship executives: I am sorry that your fuel expenses will rise--perhaps you will have to increase the price of admission for your monolithic floating tributes to excess, in order to prevent some 8,300 people from dying every year for the crime of happening to live in port cities.

Okay, so that may have been a tad melodramatic--but it seems to me that there's a pretty strong case for limiting pollution from ships, and that the industry's case against doing so rests only on the complaint that it would be expensive. Thankfully for the 8,300 folks whose lives are likely to be saved by the measure, the proposal looks likely to be adopted by the IMO--leaving the world a slightly less polluted place."

 

Credits:

Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship    AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream

Polluting Cruise Industry Tries Again to Avoid Alaskan Regulations

Newspapers in Alaska are reporting that cruise lines are trying to avoid Alaska's strict waste water laws. 

The Juneau Empire reports that the cruise industry is complaining to lawmakers in Alaska that the limits on ammonia are too strict.  The cruise industry's "Alaska Cruise Association" - comprised of Miami based cruise lines - is again posturing to reposition its cruise ships if they cannot make a deal which permits them to pollute. 

The cruise industry is known for its strong arm tactics of threatening financial harm to the port cities if they can't get their way around environmental regulations. The newspaper quotes a consultant for the "Alaska Cruise Association, Mike Tibbles, as saying: 

"If this stands, ship deployments could be altered and port times may be reduced," he said. "The result could very likely be fewer economic opportunities for our businesses."

Alaska passed strict wastewater regulations in 2006 for sewage, graywater and other treated water dumped into state waters.

The president of the "Responsible Cruising in Alaska" organization, Chip Thoma, believes that the cruise industry's history of polluting Alaskan waters proves the need to regulate cruise ship discharges: 

"The cruise ships engaged in a great deal of deception to hide their malfeasance." 

Vision of the Seas - Royal Caribbean - Bunker Fuel - Emissions

The carbon footprint of the cruise industry is incredible.  Cruise ships burn nasty bunker fuel and dump millions of gallons of sewage.  If left unregulated, the cruise industry will save money by avoiding implementing new technologies.  We have addressed cruise line pollution and the battle to protect Alaska's waters from the cruise industry's discharges of sewage in prior articles:

Cruise Industry Retaliates Against Green Water Scientist

Cruise Industry Dumps Green Water Scientist Overboard, Appoints Law Firm Employee to Waste Water Panel

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    

Cruise Air Emissions - Vision of the Seas - Royal Caribbean

 

Credits:

Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship    AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream

Celebrity Cruises' Mercury cruise ship                      AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream

Cruise Industry Dumps Green Water Scientist Overboard, Appoints Law Firm Employee to Waste Water Panel

There is an interesting article today in the Juneau Empire "Legislators Debate Removal of Cruise Panel Member Cohen - Cruise Ally Defends Removal of Industry Foe."

Craig Johnson - Cruise Line Supporter - Alaska The article points out that a Republican legislator, Craig Johnson (photo left), is defending the removal of waste water scientist Gershon Cohen (photo below) from a cruise ship science advisory panel at the insistence of the cruise industry. Representative Johnson is quoted as stating: "I applaud the department for doing the right thing and depoliticizing the panel."

"Depoliticizing the panel?"  

Representative Johnson is known for co-sponsoring a bill to repeal a water-pollution provision in a cruise-ship law that voters approved in 2006.  The Alaskan law prevents state regulators from granting "mixing zones" to cruise ships which would permit the ships' pollution discharge to exceed state standards.  The cruise industry has been lobbying heavily to avoid the strict pollution regulations in Alaska. 

Dumping Mr. Cohen overboard is an end run around environmental laws which protect Alaskan waters.   

While representative Johnson supports sinking Mr. Cohen (who has a master's degree in molecular biology and a doctorate in environmental policy), he supports the appointment of an employee of a law firm which represents the cruise industry on water regulatory issues.

The waste water panel includes Mr. Lincoln Loehr, who is described as a paralegal employed by the law firm of Stoel Rives LLP.  Mr. Loehr works with lawyers who represent the interests of cruise Cruise Ship Pollution - Alaskalines and other large corporate polluters.  In addition to cruise lines, the Stoel Rives law firm brochure states that their lawyers represent the interests of:

 .  .  . chemical plants, mines, power plants, pulp and paper mills, ranches, food processors, steel mills and real estate developers.

The law firm advertises its ability to handle water quality matters "that can severely impact business operations."

Representative Johnson is also quoted in the article as questioning climate change and arguing that science is too often being "politicized."  While claiming to want to "depoliticize" the panel by removing Mr. Cohen, representative Johnson actually wants to politicize the panel with friends of the cruise industry.  

Democratic representative Beth Kerttula stated the obvious: "A number of us have grave, grave Gershon Cohen - Green Waterconcerns about the agency's behavior and about the credibility of the panel as it will now be." 

We pointed out in a prior blog article that Mr. Cohen assisted Alaska in adopting laws to protect its waters from cruise ship pollution.

Representative Johnson and other Republican legislators fit squarely in the cruise industry's pocket.  Dumping Mr. Cohen is pay back, pure and simple, for his protection of Alaska against the $35 billion cruise industry's corporate practices. With Mr. Cohen out of the picture, the cruise industry will pressure its friends on the panel members to devise water quality matters with the cruise industry's business interests in mind.   

The issue is not an academic debate. Just take a look at how one cruise line, Princess Cruises, repeatedly violated Alaskan waster water regulations:    

In September, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific  PrincessSapphire Princess and Sea Princess were cited for violating the Alaska waste water 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.

In November, the same culprits - the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Sea Princess, Golden Princess and Diamond Princess were busted for pollution.

The result of a cruise industry dominated waste water panel will be greater discharges of copper, ammonia, zinc, bacteria and fecal matter into Alaska's pristine waters.

Coral Princess - Alaska - Pollution - Waste Water Violations

 

If you are interested in other articles regarding cruise pollution, consider reading some of our other articles:

Super Ships - Rogues on the High Seas

Cruise Ship Bunker Fuel - "Thick, Tarry Sludge"

New Report Details Cruise Industry's Record of Pollution

Also consider reading:

"Cruise on Down to our Dumping Ground

 

Credits:

Representative Craig Johnson                  Alaskan State Legislature

Gershon Cohen                    Clean Water Network

Coral Princess     AP via New York Time "Cruise Lines Face More Policing of Waste Disposal"

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

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)

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