Yesterday the Friends of the Earth (FOE) filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington D.C. against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an effort to force the federal agency to regulate sewage discharges from cruise ships and other vessels in U.S. waters.
As the Palm Beach Post points out, cruise ships alone dumped more than one billion gallons of sewage in the ocean last year. And much of what cruise ships discharge is poorly treated.
The FOE stated: "Cruise ships with populations the size of small towns ply the waters off our coasts and massive cargo ships carrying goods to our ports produce and then dump large amounts of partially treated sewage and other wastes into our oceans.
“The EPA is required under the Clean Water Act to protect people who swim, boat, and fish in waters affected by ship sewage discharges. Modern sewage treatment options are available for relatively low cost, but EPA hasn’t updated it regulations to reflect those advances since 1976. As a result, ships can dump bacteria-laden wastewater in some of our most valuable waters."
As we have mentioned in the past, the FOE "grades" the cruise lines for their treatment of the environment. Last year, the FOE report card contained F's for Costa, Crystal, MSC and P&O. Royal Caribbean received a C and Carnival received a C-. Disney received an A.
Here's how the cruise lines have treated the planet over the last few years:
The "environmental report card" for the cruise industry is out and the grades for some of the major cruise lines are ugly.
Costa, Crystal and P&O Cruises all received failed grades on the report card prepared by the highly respected environmental group Friends of the Earth ("FOE"). The non-profit organization analysis the cruise lines' environmental footprint in terms of sewage treatment and air pollution reduction. FOE handed these three polluting cruise lines a "F."
The fact that Crystal is at the bottom of the class is no surprise. It has always been an environmental scoundrel.
In 2003, the Crystal Harmony dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a beautiful marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. According to the L.A. Times, Crystal Cruises said it 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.
In the 2010 FOE report card, Crystal Cruises also received the lowest grade - "F." Cruise spokesperson Weisband responded by saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A ... if not an A+."
At the other end of the polluting spectrum is Disney which received a "A-." This month the Disney Wonder will be arriving at the Port of Miami and by 2014 there will be four Disney cruise ships ported in the state of Florida with the Magic joining the Dream and Fantasy in Port Canaveral.
You can read the scores of all of the cruise lines and about 150 of their cruise ships here. Big boys Carnival and Royal Caribbean received "D+'s." In the last environmental report card in 2010, Carnival received a "F" and Royal Caribbean received a "D-."
Expect the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"), which is fighting against clean air regulations and opposing restrictions on deadly bunker/ high sulfur fuels, to make a statement today claiming that the FOE report card is "not scientific," "biased," "arbitrary," "flawed" or whatever. Sounds like what I told my mom when my ninth grade teacher gave me a "D" in Algebra II after I didn't study all year.
December 6, 2012 Update: The Sun Sentinel newspaper covered the story yesterday. Its article contained the usual denials by the cruise lines. CLIA is quoted saying: the report card "lacks basis in fact, science and law . . . The grades assigned cruise lines and their ships are based upon arbitrary, faulty and misleading measures."
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
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
Hamida Kinge was a 2008/09 Environmental Reporting Fellow for the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting and a 2009 Fellow at the Scripps Howard Institute on the Environment. Her interests include the effects of climate change on coastal communities and island nations and the effects of PCBs and DDT contamination on marine mammal health.
Ms. Kinge explains:
Where most cruise ships travel, dirty air follows. They burn a very thick, tarry petroleum sludge called “bunker fuel,” which can be between 1000 to 2000 times dirtier than diesel fuel. Apart from impacts on the natural environment, such as contributing to climate change and acid rain, bunker fuel has been linked to a number of serious cardiovascular problems and premature death in humans. And when the ships dock, their engines often stay running and the emissions directly impact port communities.
The article also refers to the Friends of the Earth "Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card" which I commented on in a previous blog.
From time to time, you will hear about cruise ships "plugging in" when they arrive at port. This means that they are turning off their engines and switching to the dockside electrical system.
Most cruise ships can't or don't "plug in." This leads to an environmental disaster, literally on a daily basis, where 5 or 6 cruise ships sit at a port spewing the emissions from the tar-like bunker fuel into the port cities.
KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage Alaska reports that the cruise industry has filed suit to avoid paying Alaska's head count tax. In an article entitled "Sources: Cruise Ship Industry Files Suit Over Head Tax," Channel 2 reports that cruise lines are trying to avoid the $46 infrastructure tax levied at Alaska ports which the cruise ships use. The cruise industry will undoubtedly argue that the State of Alaska does not have the authority to levy taxes against foreign flagged cruise ships.
The lawsuit has been a long time coming. For the past year, Mickey Arison has been threatening to use Carnival's army of lawyers to sue Alaska to avoid the tax. There is a tradition in the Arison family of avoiding taxes. His father, Ted Arison, earned billions running his cruise empire from Miami. After retirement, the senior Arison denounced his U.S. citizenship and returned to Israel to try and prevent the United States from collecting estate and inheritance taxes.
The timing of the lawsuit in Alaska is odd. Yesterday, an environmental organization called the Friends of the Earth issued what they are calling the Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card. The report card grades the cruise lines' impact on the air and water. I first learned of the report in an article entitled which cruise lines are the biggest polluters? written by travel expert Anita Dunham - Potter. Carnival received a "D-" and Royal Caribbean received a "F."
The tar-like bunker fuels these cruise ships burn are nasty. And the sewage and waste waters discharged into the water are gross. Unlike Florida which is beholden to the cruise industry with its anything goes mentality, states like Alaska and California have demonstrated an environmental commitment to the quality of the air and water in their states' jurisdiction. The cruise industry already does not pay U.S. taxes because they register their companies and flag their cruise ships in places like Liberia and Panama. To quibble over a nominal tax designed to protect Alaska and its infrastructure is just the same old greed that this industry is known for.
The Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) responded to the bad grades of its members by attacking the environmental group. In its new PR website called "Cruise Industry Facts," CLIA proclaimed: "fortunately, Friends of the Earth has no authority in the matter."
That pretty much sums up the cruise industry's attitude. Environmental group - no authority. We scoff at the notion that you can monitor or grade us. State of Alaska - no authority. You can't tax us. You can't control us. We will use the tax-free $30 billion we collect from U.S. tax-paying passengers each year to sue to avoid your measly tax, and then we will crap in your pristine waters.
Photo credit Friends of the Earth, via @ExpertCruiser
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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