On the recent #WorldOceansDay which trended on Twitter this week, the cruise industry's trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA), and CLIA travel agents tweeted photos of pristine aqua-colored waters and a beautiful healthy reef in what appears to be an idyllic location somewhere in the Pacific.
They posted tweets claiming to be "stewards of the environment."
Well that is certainly open to debate. It seems to me that the cruise industry is nothing short of a menace to the ocean, air and reefs where it sails.
This is an industry which has historically treated the oceans as a dumping ground for human waste and garbage generated by its passengers. The dumping has continued to this day as MSC demonstrated two years ago when it was caught dumping plastic bags into a marine sanctuary.
According to the Friends of the Earth (FOE) environmental group, "an average cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew produces about 21,000 gallons of sewage a day, enough to fill 10 backyard swimming pools in a week. That adds up to more than one billion gallons a year for the industry, a conservative estimate, since some new ships carry as many as 8,800 passengers and crew. In addition, each ship generates and dumps about eight times that much "graywater" from sinks, showers and baths, which can contain many of the same pollutants as sewage and significantly affects water quality."
Consider what Royal Caribbean did to the ancient reefs around the port of Falmouth. In order to squeeze its gigantic. bunker-fuel-belching Allure and Oasis of the Seas into the tiny Jamaican port, it oversaw the obliteration of millions of cubic feet of ancient living coral which it pulverized and then dumped on acres of old mangroves (photo below). A reader sent me a Google Map showing the destruction of the barrier reef and the mangroves.
A large portion of the beautiful reefs in the Caymans (often damaged by cruise ship anchors and chains, photo below) are slated for destruction as another cruise-industry-beholden leader of a tourism-dependent-Caribbean island plans to dredge and fill to build a huge, monolithic concrete cruise pier in George Town harbor to try and accommodate the increasingly over-sized Miami-based monster cruise ships.
The cruise industry's assault on the maritime environment is not limited to the powerless and poor Caribbean islands. The cruise industry has literally targeted the far corners of the world. In Cruise Ship Pollution: Cruise Sewage And Air Pollution A Rising Concern As Ships Sail Toward Northwest Passage, the International Business Times (IBT) reports that the cruise industry plans to try and send cruise ships through the Northwest Passage, a route newly opened by melting Arctic ice, even though "the colossal vessels may also bring sooty diesel emissions and swimming pools of sewage into a long-pristine environment."
So which cruise line will be taking what the Daily Beast calls the "titanic risk" into the Arctic? It's the notoriously polluter, Crystal Cruises, which will be heading to the Arctic in August. It sold out a cruise aboard the Crystal Serenity in just three weeks. Approximately 1,000 passengers are paying about $22,000 each (excluding extras such as a $4,000 helicopter ride or a three-day, $6,000 excursion exploring a glacier) according to the Wall Street Journal. From an environmental perspective, Crystal Cruises is considered by environmentalists as the "worst of the worse." It is one of four cruise lines to be given an "F" this year from the Friends of the Earth which issued its environmental report card yesterday. I suppose it is only fitting that such a cruise line would be the first cruise line to tear through the Arctic; if it can collect a minimum of $22,000,000 in cruise fares from one cruise into the virgin, pristine area, what else is important? It is always about the money, right?
Crystal Cruises will be forever known to environmentalists as the cruise line whose Crystal Harmony 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.
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 with hubris, saying that Crystal Cruises "deserved an A ... if not an A+."
FOE's latest environmental report card is below. The usual suspects, Crystal, Costa, MSC and P&O Cruises, have again received "F's." All of the other lines, except Disney Cruises which received an "A-," received a "C" or "D."
CLIA reacted to the bad grades of its cruise members like it always does, by attacking FOE. The "dirty industry," as FOE rightfully calls it, defended itself like any carbon-based industry does when scrutinized by an environmental group concerned with global warming and the obvious degradation of the environment. The cruise industry scoffs at the FOE but the truth is that the industry can do much, much better. Kudos to Disney which again has led the way in sewage treatment and water compliance while demonstrating transparency in the process.
CLIA Cruise Forward PR Photo: Cruise Line International Association
Don Foster's Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass
Friends of the Earth Report Card - Friends of the Earth