A local CBS news station (WBZ) in Boston reports that although cruising is a popular vacation, there are significant environmental downsides. The massive cruise ships burn the dirtiest type of fuel in the world, even when they’re sitting in port.
There are schools, playgrounds and residences in the neighborhoods which surrounds the port in Boston.
Asthma, heart disease, cancer, and respiratory illness are the results of the nasty bunker fuel burned in ports.
Supporters of the cruise industry will point out that cruising is more popular than ever. The CBS station points out that in 1986, there were just 13 cruise ships in Boston serving around 12,000 passengers. In 2012 some 117 ships cruised to Boston serving more than 380,000 passengers.
But with more and more cruise ships come more and more illness-causing pollution.
One solution is to have ships plug into shore power when they are docked. Other port cities like New York and Los Angeles have required electrical hook ups. The CBS program says that if ships are powered off-the-grid, electricity is increasingly renewable like wind and solar. And most importantly, noxious emissions can be cut by 95% percent.
The articles states that "emissions from berthed ships are considered the No. 1 contributor to Hong 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.
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.
At 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.
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 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 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.
Five years ago, the Bush administration proposed legislation prohibiting the use of maritime fuels with high sulfur content within 200 miles of the U.S. The Obama administration had the bill passed into law. In turn, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that it planned to create a buffer zone around the U.S. and Canada where ships would be prohibited from burning the world's dirtiest transportation fuel - bunker fuel.
The new regulations are suppose to go into effect shortly. The container shipping industry states that it intends to meet the new standards. But the cruise industry, which vigorously opposed the legislation and IMO regulations in the first place, states that it cannot comply with the pollution laws.
The health risks posed by the cruise industry's use of high sulfur fuels are enormous. I published an article years ago called "Bunker Fuel - Nasty Tar Sludge! which explains how bunker fuel - which is a tar-like substance - is the nastiest and most toxic fuel on planet earth. It is unconscionable to burn it.
"The gleaming white Sapphire Princess docked in this deep-water port (Whittier Alaska) this month, unloading its passengers and taking on another 2,600 guests headed first to Glacier Bay and, eventually, Vancouver, B.C. Every day of that trip the cruise ship — whose web site invites passengers to see Alaska’s “pristine landscapes” — will emit the same amount of sulfur dioxide as 13.1 million cars, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and as much soot as 1.06 million cars . . .
The new rule requires large ships to cut the sulfur content of their fuel, which now averages 2.7 percent, down to 1 percent next month; in 2015 it must drop to 0.1 percent.
The EPA estimates that the new rules will avoid between 12,000 and 31,000 premature deaths each year by 2030, with the benefits outweighing the costs 95 to 1. Put another way, when the stricter limit goes into effect in 2015 it will be akin to taking 12.7 million cars off the road per day and eliminating their sulfur dioxide emissions, or the soot from 900,000 cars. Air pollutants from burning ship fuel off the Pacific Coast contribute to lung disease and affect air quality as far away as North Dakota, according to agency officials."
The cruise lines (and curiously enough, the State of Alaska) have launched what the Post calls a "counter-offensive" against the pollution law.
According to the Post, once the new law is fully implemented and the additional costs of the cleaner fuel are passed on to the consumer. cruising will cost about $7 per day more. The cruise industry claims that it could add as much as $19.46 a day per passenger.
The cruise lines claim that the cleaner fuel will hurt their business. The Republican lawmakers in Alaska, under intense cruise line lobbying, profess that the new law is bad for tourism. When cruise ships are required to burn .1% sulfur fuel in 2015, cruising may cost $50 to $100 a week more. But the EPA claims that tens of thousands of lives will be saved each year with annual benefits in reduced health care expenses between $47 billion and $110 billion.
The cruise industry has tried to use the court system to avoid air pollution laws before. Last year,the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the cruise and shipping industries, holding that the state of California can regulate the cruise industry and require vessels that call on the state’s ports to use cleaner fuel.
The cruise industry and its trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), have a paradoxical relationship with the air and water around their cruise ships. They market themselves as environmentally friendly but, in truth, they are hardly the steward of the air and seas. They are the single greatest threat to the clean air and water of Alaska.
Consider the photo below of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in Alaska, filling the bay up with toxic fumes from bunker fuel.
Chart credit: Washington Post
Photo credit: Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship - AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream
A couple of years ago I blogged about the nastiest fuel on the planet - bunker fuel. It's the dredge at the bottom of oil refineries, a nasty tar like substance which is impossible to be completely burned. It leaves non-combustible particles that blacken the sky and, if inhaled, cause lung disease, cancer, asthma, emphysema. Cruise ships burn it because it's cheap. But it presents long term and costly health issues to people around the world who are forced to breathe the cruise ship emissions.
No one in their right mind would burn this stuff in their house or car and you would call the police if your neighbor did. But this is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.
When Royal Caribbean brought the new Genesis class cruise ships on line, the cruise line touted the Oasis of the Seas and its sister ship Allure of the Seas as technological marvels. But this weekend while reading an article Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? in OnEarth magazine ("A Survival Guide for the Planet.") I learned something new.
Although Royal Caribbean touts the Oasis and Allure as "green" cruise ships, they still burn the world's dirtiest fuel - bunker fuel. The article states that Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas:
" . . . still burns bunker oil, also known as bunker fuel, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. Today, virtually every cruise ship is powered by this cheap, gelatinous sludge, which presents the single biggest hurdle to an industry that wants to call itself sustainable. As long as Allure guzzles this stuff, she will leave a colossal environmental footprint . . . "
The article goes on to state that every dollar spent to reduce pollution from ships will create as much as $34 in health benefits. "Cleaner ships will translate into fewer asthma emergencies, heart attacks, and lung ailments, especially among children and the elderly." But don't expect Royal Caribbean to invest a penny into such health concerns. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are neither the stewards of the air nor the protectors of your family's lungs.
As long as the Oasis and the Allure burn bunker fuel, they are no more technologically advanced than a 1960's tanker.
In commemoration of "Earth Day" last week, the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Organization ("CLIA"), issued a PR statement praising itself for being a champion of protecting the environment.
CLIA CEO Christine Duffy stated "We believe it is our responsibility to protect the environment in which we operate, and we take great pride in the strides our industry has made to chart a sustainable course for future generations."
Sounds great. The problem is that it is not true.
Today multiple newspapers are reporting that CLIA is vigorously fighting to avoid cleaner ship fuel regulations so that it can continue to burn inexpensive bunker fuels.
McClatchy newspapers report that heavy fuels that oceangoing vessels burn add so much to air pollution hundreds of miles inland that the United States joined with Canada to ask the International Maritime Organization ("IMO") to create an emissions-control area along the coasts. Large ships would be required to reduce pollution dramatically in a zone 200 miles out to sea along all the coasts of North America, mainly by using cleaner fuel.
Although the cargo-shipping industry supports the stringent emission reductions, the cruise ship industry does not. It wants what it is calling an "emissions-averaging plan" that would allow it to burn the same heavy fuel it always has used in some areas. It is lobbying Congress for help.
McClatchy reports that officials of the EPA and the Coast Guard opposed CLIA's plan in a letter to the IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu. "After analysis, we believe the cruise lines proposal is unacceptable because it would result in overall higher emissions and doesn't meet public expectations of uniform delivery of health and environmental benefits for citizens of the United States," wrote Jeffrey G. Lantz, the Coast Guard's director of commercial regulations and standards, and Margo Tsirigotis Oge, the director of the EPA's office of transportation and air quality.
CLIA is a two faced organization. It poses as an environmental leader for marketing purposes, but behind the scenes it is spending millions lobbying Congress so that it can burn inexpensive but dangerous heavy sulfur fuels.
Yesterday the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state of California can regulate the shipping and cruise industries and require vessels that call on the state’s ports to use cleaner fuel.
One of the problems with the cruise industry is that cruise ship use diesel and nasty bunker fuels which spew toxic particulate matter into the air.
Unlike most states, California requires that ships use cleaner fuel starting 24 nautical miles from California’s shore. According to Melissa Lin Perrella, an attorney with Southern California Air Project in Santa Monica:
"Over the course of six years, between 2009 and 2015, these rules will prevent 3,500 premature deaths.
Eighty percent of Californians are exposed to air pollution from large ocean-going vessels as their exhaust drifts inland. Every day, these vessels spew toxic diesel particulate matter (PM) in an amount equivalent to 150,000 big rig trucks driving 125 miles daily. While people living close to ports are particularly affected, wind patterns, geography, and meteorology transport vessel-generated air pollution well beyond our coastline and into too many of our lungs."
The shipping and cruise industries, led by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (which lists cruise industry giant Carnival as a member), fought against the California legislation. Essentially, the shipping and cruise interests argued that California does have not have authority to regulate vessels more than 3 miles from its coastline (the regulations reach 24 nautical miles from shore).
It is not unusual for the cruise industry to tell the public that it stands for the highest environmental standards, but behind the scenes spend millions of dollars to lobbyists and lawyers to fight for lower standards which harm the public.
Ms. Perrella writes: "The message is clear. It is time for the shipping industry to get on board or get out the way. California is moving forward to protect its citizens, and now has the Ninth Circuit firmly behind it."
California and Alaska are ahead of the curve in protecting U.S. citizens from the harmful effects of poisonous cruise fuels. Will states like Florida ever protect their citizens?
This week was another interesting week in the strange world of cruise law. Just consider:
A Cruise CEO With Billions of Dollars But No Soul?
Carnival Cruise's CEO Billionaire Mickey Arison was named the richest man in Florida again by Fortune magazine with a net worth of $4,100,000,000. So why does he pay his injured and ill crew members slave wages of only $12 a day?
Arison owns the Miami Heat and is paying basketball stars Dwayne Wade and LeBron James hundreds of millions of dollars, but he treats his crew employees like dog crap.
Arison and the other cruise line tycoons Leon Black and the Pritzker families are stereotypes of greedy shipping executives. Earlier this year I wrote about these Cruise Line Fat Cat Billionaires. Here we are again with these billionaires counting their pennies.
Billions for me, peanuts for the crew.
More Lies By the Cruise Line International Association
The notorious Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), which rivals the former communist regimes of Russia in trying to control the flow of information (Pravda anyone?), released a major marketing PR effort this week to promote itself as a green industry. CEO Arison is quoted as saying that the cruise industry is "committed to the highest environmental standards through cutting-edge environmental policies, procedures, technologies . . . "
The truth is that Arison and CLIA fought tooth and nail this year to avoid Alaska's high wastewater restrictions. A green company? Hardly. CLIA opposes the Clean Air Law and its cruise ships are still burning nasty bunker fuel. Technologies needed to meet the "highest" wastewater and emission standards cost money, that billionaire Arison has historically avoided spending unless forced to do so.
My blog this week contained two of my most widely read articles over the course of the last year. Royal Caribbean's Deep Throat focused on the corruption in Royal Caribbean's risk management department.
The "Deep Throat" article about the cruise line's indifference toward its own corrupt employee should be read in contrast to the cruise line's diabolical conduct toward a former cruise line lawyer who decided to "switch sides" and represent injured passengers and crew members - Royal Caribbean Forces Defense Lawyer to Switch Sides. This article was widely circulated by email within Royal Caribbean's legal department and its outside law firm who are teaming up in a campaign of malicious prosecution against our firm.
The "Deep Throat" article was named as one of the "best in blogs" by LexBlog yesterday.
More Good News For Cruise Law News (CLN)
Speaking of the best blogs, CLN has reached another milestone as one of the most read legal blogs in the U.S. Three months ago, I was excited to mention that this blog was the 55th most popular legal blog per the Alexa rankings and was rising fast. I predicted by the end of the year that CLN's popularity would place it in the top 25 law blogs.
Well today Alexa's ranking shows that CLN moved up from the 55th to the 32nd most popular law blog.
It seems that the public is hungry for a source of information about cruising other than the slick corporate statements from billionaire executives and bogus facts from the cruise industry's PR people.
Interested in how your blog or website is ranked? Click here and download the Alexa toolbar. It will take 20 seconds . . .
Credits: Mickey Arison - David Adame AP (via Cruise Blog)
Canada's Globe and Mail reports today that the cruise industry is lobbying Canada lawmakers to try and avoid the clean air regulations passed two months ago by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
As we reported in April, Over Cruise Industry's Objection, IMO Creates Air Pollution Buffer Around U.S. and Canada. The IMO voted to enact regulations requiring cruise ships and other vessel to burn cleaner (lower sulfur) fuel within 200 nautical miles of Canada and the United States. As matters now stand, cruise ship burn nasty bunker fuels which contain a high sulfur content and pose a distinct health hazard to anyone who breathes the non-combustible particles.
Cruise ship smoke is a killer.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said the changes will save as many as 14,000 lives a year by improving air quality. A comment to the Globe and Mail report is spot on in stating:
"It is outrageous that cruise ship industry proponents would dare consider going to Ottawa in an attempt to influence our politicians on canceling the clean fuel initiatives. Obviously, human lives are being prematurely taken every year and billions of public healthcare dollars are spent throughout North America treating respiratory illnesses brought on by marine emission sources . . . However cruise tourism executives do not see it that way. Visiting cruise tourists buying souvenir trinkets in Victoria gift shops, are given more validity than a human life, degradation to our environment and the millions in future healthcare costs."
After the IMO passed the new regulations, the cruise industry's notorious trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), issued a statement that it supports the “goals and intent” of the new pollution buffer zone. In my last blog on this issue, I wrote: "Hogwash. Over the next few years, you will see the cruise industry try and avoid the new IMO rules."
I was wrong. It did not take a "few years." It's been only 2 months. And CLIA is back to its dirty business.
My Dad is an oil man. In the 1960's we lived in Texas and Oklahoma as kids when my Dad worked for seismic companies. In 1965, we moved to Libya when Dad took a job with the largest oil company in North Africa. He became the head of the geophysical department responsible for searching for oil. My Dad made the final decision where to drill and sink thousands of feet of drill pipe and casing into the Sahara Desert. This was big business. I remember when he came home with a vial containing a sample of the 5,000,000,000 barrel of crude oil he discovered beneath the Libyan sands.
Dad taught us everything about the oil and gas industry. Geological formations. Exploration strategies. Dilling techniques. And he explained the process of refining oil and producing gas products of different octanes. He also talked about the by-products of oil refineries including a bottom-of-the-barrel product called "bunker fuel."
Bunker fuel is a waste product. It literally is the dredge remaining in the pits of the refineries after all of the refining process has ended and the high octane fuels have been produced and the diesel products have been extracted from the crude oil. It is toxic muck. It has the consistency of tar. It cannot be used without incombustible particles flying all over the place - not unlike burning a tire - with the residue burrowing deep into the mucous membranes of your lungs.
I remember my Dad telling me, this is some nasty shit son. I can't believe anyone would use this sludge. It's a health hazard if you breath it. It should be pumped back into the wells and capped.
No one reading this article would burn bunker fuel in their house, or subject their neighbors to this toxic pollutant. Bunker fuel is the nastiest and most toxic fuel you can use.
But this fuel is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.
In prior articles, we have written about the high sulfur content of bunker fuel - which has 4,000 to 5,000 more sulfur than gasoline used in automobiles. This cheap, filthy, high-sulfur fuel has a disastrous effect on the environment and a deadly effect on those who breath the lethal smoke.
Any time you see a photo of a cruise ship on the cruise line's or travel agent's web site, it has always been photo-shopped to hide the smoke billowing out of the smoke stacks. But 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.
In March, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) announced that it was creating a buffer zone around the U.S. and Canada which will prohibit the use of bunker fuel. 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."
It is therefore not surprising that the Friends of the Earth's (FOE) Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card gave a "F" to Carnival, Celebrity Crystal, Cunard, Disney, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Silversea cruise lines for air pollution reduction. FOE released a press statement yesterday:
"For the second year in a row, we’ve found that cruise lines are doing less than they can to limit the environmental impacts of their ships. . . From ending the use of dirty fuel that pollutes the air to stopping the disgusting practice of dumping sewage and other waste into the sea, it’s time for the cruise industry to clean up its act. The unfortunate reality is that, at present, many cruises harm marine ecosystems and the health of people who live near ports of call.”
The cruise industry trade organization, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), responded to the bad grades with this press release:
“It is unfortunate that instead of contributing to a meaningful scientific dialogue about protecting our oceans, FOE continues to use innuendo and misstate the facts to advance its agenda. This ‘report card’ is not based on science, law, or the facts, and like its last one, is rooted in FOE’s own arbitrary and flawed criteria.”
Unfortunately, arrogant and dismissive statements like this are the typical response from the recalcitrant cruise industry. But the truth of the matter remains that without governmental oversight, cruise lines will always use the cheapest and most hazardous fuels available to operate their cruise ships.
So if you are thinking of cruising this summer, give the environment a break - take your family for a hike and camping trip in a national park instead.
Click on the video and watch bunker fuel burning (gas mask recommended):
Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream
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.
This 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?"
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 Congressmen 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.
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."
On Friday, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) passed a regulation requiring cruise ships, tankers and cargo ships to switch to low-sulfur fuel when they operate within 230 miles of the U.S. and Canada.
As reported in the Houston Chronicle, the new regulations should cut emissions linked to thousands of illnesses and premature deaths each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The United States and Canada requested the IMO to pass the new regulations to protect their nations' air quality and keep their citizens healthy.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the ships which will be affected by the new rules are almost exclusively foreign flagged and operated - like Princess Cruises' Coral Princess cruise ship, left.
These ships burn a tar-like, nasty sludge known as "bunker fuel," which we have discussed in prior articles. The sludge contains sulfur levels significantly greater than U.S. law allows for other diesel engines and is a major source of tiny, airborne particulates which cause cancer and lung disease.
The newspaper article also indicates that the new restrictions will cut allowable levels of sulfur in fuel by 98 percent, soot by 85 percent and smog-forming pollution by 80 percent.
The cruise industry's trade group, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), fought against the new pollution regulations, arguing that the switch to low-sulfur fuels would decrease cruise line profits. If the cruise lines had their way, they would choose to burn bunker fuel - like Princess Cruises' cruise ship, the Coral Princess, smoking up the port in Alaska (above).
After the IMO passed the new regulations, CLIA issued a statement that it supports the “goals and intent” of the new pollution buffer zone.
Over the next few years, you will see the cruise industry try and avoid the new IMO rules.
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."
". . . 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."
Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas cruise ship AlaskanLibrarian's Flickr photostream
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."
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:
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 firmwhich represents the cruise industry on water regulatory issues.
The waste water panel includes Mr. Lincoln Loehr,who is described as a paralegalemployed by the law firm of Stoel Rives LLP. Mr. Loehr works with lawyers who represent the interests of cruise lines 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 concerns 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.
In September, the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Pacific Princess, Sapphire 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.
If you are interested in other articles regarding cruise pollution, consider reading some of our other articles:
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.
In 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."
Cruise 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."
We have written about cruise ship dumping, cruise waste discharges and air emissions, and the cruise industry's shenanigans in Alaska in prior articles:
A report entitled "Getting a Grip on Cruise Pollution" released today by the Friends of the Earth (FOE) organization concludes that the billions of dollars earned by the cruise industry 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 air 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.
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.
Oasis of the Seas Kenneth Karsten via shipspotting.com
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 much 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.
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.
Maritime & admiralty lawyer & attorney James M. Walker of Walker & O'Neill Law Firm, offering services related to injuries, sexual assaults, fires, negligence, rapes & disappearances on cruise ships, pirate & terrorist attacks, missing passengers, shore excursions, wrongful death and the Jones Act, serving cruise passengers, crew members, cabin attendants, utility workers, waiters, bar tenders, ship doctors and cleaners on cruise ships worldwide.
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