I have written about Royal Caribbean’s new port development in the town of Falmouth Jamaica before. It seems to me that the new development for the cruise line perpetuates the historical master (cruise line) – servant (Jamaica) relationship which continues to exploit the Jamaican people.
My tour of Falmouth reinforced those beliefs. Most of the profits from goods sold behind the walled gates to the port leave with the cruise ship and return to the cruise line’s coffers in Miami. And most of the cruise passengers who left the Allure of the Seas when it was in port quickly headed out of Falmouth on cruise line excursions to Ocho Rio and Montego Bay.
But this article is not about the economic exploitation of Falmouth. It addresses the environmental consequences to the island caused by trying to accommodate Royal Caribbean’s two monster (Genesis) class cruise ships, the Oasis of the Seas and the Allure of the Seas – the two biggest cruise ships in the world.
The motivation for this article came from reading an article Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? in OnEarth magazine (“A Survival Guide for the Planet.”)
I learned a couple of things from this article. First, the Oasis and the Allure, even though Royal Caribbean touts them as environmentally friendly ships, are burning the dirtiest and most dangerous fuel in the world – bunker fuel – which is essentially a tar-like refinery by-product. The non-combustible particles blacken the sky and pose a major health hazard to the health of people in a hundred mile radius.
Secondly, the presence of Royal Caribbean’s new mega-ships in the little port required the destruction of some 35,000,000 cubic feet of coral reef and the destruction of two square miles of mangroves which are now buried under the now pulverized reef material. Quite frankly when I visited Falmouth last year, I was taken back by the destruction I could see. But now I appreciate just how widespread and complete Royal Caribbean’s plans were to destroy the reef and mangroves. OnEarth magazine explains:
“In Falmouth, to accommodate Allure and Oasis, wrecking crews had to smash a quarter-mile-wide opening in an offshore barrier reef. They dredged coral, both living and dead, as well as the rock substrate, and trucked it inland to a two-square-mile dump site — a clear-cut area on the outskirts of town that was once a thriving red mangrove swamp. Now all that’s left is 35 million cubic feet of pulverized coral and rubble. When I visit the site with Roland Haye, a Jamaican environmental activist, he tells me, “As a boy, I used to play Tarzan here and see crocodile. It was a winter home for great heron and swan.” He points out broken conch shells, dismembered starfish, bits of sea sponge, and severed lobes of brain coral.”
Another problem is that the removal of the natural reef exposes the shore to pounding of the waves. When I visited, I observed that the road from Ocho Rios to Falmouth, previously protected by the reef, was literally covered with water from the encroaching waves. The road was already eroding.
While reading the OnEarth magazine article, I learned about Esther Figueroa, a Jamaican filmmaker who documented the destruction of the reef and mangroves in order to dig a giant water hole for Royal Caribbean to park its monstrosities of the seas. (Why does Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi – “they paved paradise” – come to mind?).
Ms. Figuero’s short video is below, at the bottom.
But first take a look at the top video. While looking on YouTube for Ms. Figueroa’s video, I also ran across a short promotional video for the Royal Caribbean port by “CruiseGuy,” a cruise enthusiast and local cruise celebrity, who was interviewed on a local South Florida TV station. He raves about how wonderful Royal Caribbean’s new facility in Falmouth will be. The video shows a beautiful color drawing of a tree filled port nestled between the Oasis and the Allure.
Compare this cruise dream with the reality revealed by Ms. Figueroa’s video on the bottom.
“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”