The "Trump Effect" - Cruise Industry Reinforces Its Image as an Enemy of the Environment

Falmouth, Jamaica Dredge and FillYesterday, I attended the annual Seatrade Global conference in Fort Lauderdale. In the morning, the "state of the industry'' featured the usual cruise tycoons extolling on the billion dollar cruise industry. Carnival Corporation's CEO Arnold Donald, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio, MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, and Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain all spoke glowingly to an audience of enthusiastic cruise attendees that the cruise lines were enjoying a booming business.

The most talked about statistic was that over 25 million passengers around the world will be welcomed on board cruise ships this year.

But there was a troubling undercurrent at the convention. 

“NCL's cruise executive, Frank Del Rio, who received nearly $32 million in compensation in 2015, said that the industry was benefiting because of what he called the "Trump Effect." 

CNBC reporter and moderator, Susan Li, encouraged Del Rio to explain the "Trump Effect" to the attentive audience.  

Del Rio said that because of President Trump, the stock market was at all time high and fewer regulations and pro-business tax cuts were good for his business.

Del Rio also said that he "loved" the NCL cruise destinations, including cruises to his native Cuba, "because they make us money."   

Del Rio's comments about the "love" of more money and "fewer regulations" seem to be the essence of the "Trump Effect." President Trump is aggressively taking steps to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as evidenced by his appointment of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head that federal agency. Pruitt has a record of trying to destroy the environmental protections that the EPA is responsible for enforcing. He has built his political career by trying to undermine the EPA’s environmental protections and has even disputed the effects of climate change. 

Cruise Ship Smashes Reef in Raja Ampat, IndonesiaThe cruise industry has always struggled with its environmental image.

Just two days ago, a British cruise ship smashed into a pristine and beautiful reef on Raja Ampat in Indonesia and then caused further damage when the captain insisted that tugs drag the cruise ship off the ancient reef.

There are few travel industries which can wreak havoc on rare, biodiverse marine habitats as effectively as the cruise lines. 

Damaging reefs is not an usual event in the world of cruising, as the cruise lines have recently demonstrated time after time. But the damage is not just due to the reckless operation of cruise ships but is often the intentional acts of dredging old reefs and filling native mangroves with the pulverized coral to make way for deeper ports in the Caribbean to accommodate the larger and large cruise ships which are dominating the cruise industry today.

Of course, the cruise industry just witnessed the spectacle of the Department of Justice fining Princess Cruises a record $40,000,000 fine after its investigation uncovered wide-spread illegal practices involving dumping oil at sea around the world by the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess over the course of nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the cruise executives at the helm of the Princess organization at the time of the dumping have continued to be promoted to lucrative positions in the Carnival corporation

"Magic pipes" and shady environmental shipboard practices have long been part of the history of the cruise industry.

The fine seemed to be déjà vu of the early 2000's when the major Miami-based cruise lines, NCL, Carnival and Royal Caribbean, paid tens of millions of dollars in fines and pled guilty to multiple felonies for dumping oil into the oceans, falsifying ship logs and lying to the U.S. Coast Guard about the environmental crimes.

Reef Damage in Cayman IslandsSo, in an industry with a history like this, it's troubling to see a CEO of a major cruise line excited about the benefits of fewer environmental regulations under the Trump presidency. Yes, the cruise executives will earn lots of more millions of dollars, but the reefs and waters around the world will pay a heavy price for such short-sightedness.

Interested in more articles about the "Trump Effect?" Read:

Skift (by Hannah Sampson) - Cruise Executives at Odds Over the Trump Effect.

Seattade (by Anne Kalosh) -  Strong demand, record orderbook, China, 'Trump effect' boost cruising, top leaders say.

Miami Herald (by Chabeli Herrera) - Cruising is booming, thanks in part to the ‘Trump Effect,’ but there’s a catch.

Take a moment and read: Donald Trump is preparing to make massive policy changes at the EPA and Trump to environment: This is war.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

Photo credits:

Top - Dredge and fill in Falmouth - Jamaca Gleaner

Middle - Reef in Raja Ampat, Indoneasia - AFP via the newspaper

Bottom - Anchor damage in Cayman Islands - Don Foster's Dive Cayman via Cayman Compass

Cruise Shipping Miami: What the Cruise Executives Did Not Tell You

When the Cruise Shipping Miami's "State of the Industry" presentation started yesterday at 9:30 AM, I wondered whether anyone would mention Costa Concordia.  

Keynote speaker, David Scowsill,World Travel and Tourism Council President, briefly mentioned the Concordia disaster in passing, saying "despite the tragic cruise ship incident last year" cruising is still "safest" form of transportation.

Holland America Line CEO Stein Kruse was the first to say the words "Costa Concordia" over 1 hour into the CEO's presentation which I quickly noted in a tweet at 10:33 AM.  It was one of the few State of the Cruise Industryreferences to reality the entire morning.

All of the CEO's covered the CLIA talking points that cruising was "safe" and the cruise industry is also supposedly "highly regulated."  The hyperbole was extraordinary.

Christine Duffy was the first to say that the Triumph fire was "rare." Carnival's President Gerry Cahill then topped her saying: “Something like this is very rare."

NCL's Kevin Sheehan said that cruising was the "safest, safest, safest" vacation option.   

RCCL President Adam Goldstein said that the cruise industry was "highly regulated" by the IMO "regulatory scheme." He said words to the effect that he was sure "that no one in the room would dispute that."

Carnival's Cahill added that his cruise line intends to conduct safety audit all of its ships. CLIA would also be performing audits as well.

All of these statements sounded great. But there was little of substance discussed. There were all types of precise statistics presented about the number of new ships, the number of passengers and the revenue generated by the cruise lines. But when it comes to statistics regarding fires and other accidents, the cruise executives offered nothing but their personal opinions.

It was interesting what the cruise execs didn't say rather than the talking points they repeated over and over.     

Last year I attended a Congressional hearing where a cruise expert detailed some 79 cruise ship fires between 1990 and the hearing in 2011. I have discussed in this blog that over 10 cruise ship fires occurred since the Splendor. That's 90 fires in 23 years.

That's hardly "rare." The "safest, safest, safest" form of transportation does not catch on fire every 4 months.

Keeping statistics away from the public is how the cruise industry works.  Assuring the public that the unregulated cruise industry is allegedly "heavily regulated" is also how the cruise lines work.

Senator Rockefeller presided over the post Concordia safety hearing last year and told the cruise representatives "You Are A World Unto Yourselves."    There is simply no real oversight by the U.S. over foreign flagged cruise ships.

Carnival's Cahill promised that his cruise line would police itself with its own safety audits. But what he didn't say was whether the audits will ever be released to the public.  

Trust me, they will never see the light of day.

Cruise Shipping MiamiCahill also said that Carnival "learned its lesson" after the Splendor fire in 2010. But he didn't say what lesson Carnival learned. He also didn't mention that the country of Panama, where Carnival registered the Splendor to avoid income tax, has still not even released a report about the investigation into the fire which occurred over two years ago.  What lesson can be learned if the official report into the fire has still not been released at this late date?

Does anyone really think that the audits by Carnival and CLIA about the Triumph last month will ever be shared with the public when there is no public report about the Splendor which caught on fire 28 months ago?

Until the cruise industry truly falls under the scrutiny of U.S. federal regulators and there is transparency in releasing statistical information and accident investigation reports, all we will hear at the state-of-the-industry presentations are more and more self-serving opinions of an industry which is a world unto itself.