I read an interesting articleby a staff writer for the Take Part Blog about nasty discharges by cruise ships.  The article is entilted "Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card Grim."

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.


  • I was always told that when the cruise ships are in port, or cruising along the coast, they switch from bunker to diesel fuel.

    I never see dark black smoke belching from the stacks of cruise ships moored in the ports of Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, or Miami.

  • Jim Walker

    Good point, Jim. In some ports and passageways, you don’t always see the thick plume.

    A good friend of mine’s family in New Orleans has a high rise condo down wind where a Carnival cruise ship docked on the Mississippi river. The non-combustible black particles resembled someone catching a newspaper on fire on their balcony. Nasty!

  • Mark Thomas

    It is my understanding that the last cruise ship to use “bunker” grade fuel was the Norway. The more modern ships use a different, lighter grade I believe.

  • Florida governor needs to get on board as well some of the public officials currently in Jacksonville florida Carnival cruise lines docks a ship called the fascination for which has repeatly violated local smoke emissions aas well as other laws,which is well documented in an ongoing lawsuit. The cruise line director has publicly stated it has been dumping for years off the coast of florida.Now when I myself contacted fdep they informed me there was no laws on the books regulating the cruise industy just and MOU which was out dated many times.Miami district court shows carnival to be a convicted felon along with other cruise lines yet nothing is done or enforced,Its time to put some teeth to the law fines do not work but perhaps criminal santions might.