A couple of years ago I blogged about the nastiest fuel on the planet – bunker fuel. It’s the dredge at the bottom of oil refineries, a nasty tar like substance which is impossible to be completely burned. It leaves non-combustible particles that blacken the sky and, if inhaled, cause lung disease, cancer, asthma, emphysema. Cruise ships burn it because it’s cheap. But it presents long term and costly health issues to people around the world who are forced to breathe the cruise ship emissions.
No one in their right mind would burn this stuff in their house or car and you would call the police if your neighbor did. But this is the cornerstone of the cruise industry.
When Royal Caribbean brought the new Genesis class cruise ships on line, the cruise line touted the Oasis of the Seas and its sister ship Allure of the Seas as technological marvels. But this weekend while reading an article Can the Cruise Industry Clean Up Its Act? in OnEarth magazine ("A Survival Guide for the Planet.") I learned something new.
Although Royal Caribbean touts the Oasis and Allure as "green" cruise ships, they still burn the world’s dirtiest fuel – bunker fuel. The article states that Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas:
" . . . still burns bunker oil, also known as bunker fuel, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. Today, virtually every cruise ship is powered by this cheap, gelatinous sludge, which presents the single biggest hurdle to an industry that wants to call itself sustainable. As long as Allure guzzles this stuff, she will leave a colossal environmental footprint . . . "
The article goes on to state that every dollar spent to reduce pollution from ships will create as much as $34 in health benefits. "Cleaner ships will translate into fewer asthma emergencies, heart attacks, and lung ailments, especially among children and the elderly." But don’t expect Royal Caribbean to invest a penny into such health concerns. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are neither the stewards of the air nor the protectors of your family’s lungs.
As long as the Oasis and the Allure burn bunker fuel, they are no more technologically advanced than a 1960’s tanker.
For additional information about cruise ship pollution, read an editorial in the Seattle Times Cruise Industry Should Comply With New Air-Quality Regulation