Princess Cruises Balloon ReleaseOn June 30th, Princess Cruises celebrated the Majestic Princess’s maiden cruise to Taiwan by releasing hundreds of red, blue, yellow, and pink balloons from the ship, which it photographed and posted on its Facebook page

The reaction to this environmentally-harmful publicity stunt was immediate. At the time of publishing this article, there were over 900 comments posted on Facebook with the vast majority criticizing the cruise line’s conduct:

Disgraceful and irresponsible behavior from Princess Cruises with this mass balloon release  . . . These balloons will end up choking wildlife in the marine environment . . . 

Stop littering the precious ocean with plastic from your marketing stunts . . . 

Shame on you, Princess cruises for releasing HUNDREDS of balloons from your ship. You should know that this causes death to wildlife in the oceans . . . 

This makes me really sad. Those balloons will eventually come down into our oceans. Marine species mistake them as food and consume them. It kills them, and adds to the microplastic crisis and contaminates our seafood. Seriously who was the idiot who decided a balloon release was a good idea? And further, who approved it?

Princess Cruises auto-responded to the hundreds of comments protesting the balloon release by falsely claiming that the balloons were allegedly "biodegradable:"

Hi, we value and respect the environment. Only eco-friendly biodegradable balloons were used in this event.

Of course, vinyl balloons are not remotely biodegradable, as many knowledgeable cruisers explained on the Princess Facebook page. Studies posted by concerned readers conclude that it takes as long as five years before the balloon actually begins to fall apart. But then the smaller parts are consumed by fish, turtles and mammals, as one commentator pointed out: 

Princess Cruises, do you really understand what you said? Balloons don’t disintegrate when Princess Cruises Balloon Releasethey hit water or land. Sea life and wildlife ingest them as food. The only biodegradable thing about them is when they rot in the stomach of dead animals. Please educate yourselves. I am shocked to see an enterprise that depends on the oceans for their revenue destroy it like this. Deplorable really!

Many of the hundreds of negative comments were left by people offended that Princess would try and defend the harmful publicity stunt.

This is a cruise line which has earned a reputation over the years as an enemy of the environment. Last December, the U.S. Department of Justice fined Princess $40,000,000 for wide-spread dumping of oil from a number of its cruise ships, by-passing the bilge-water oil separators, falsification of its logs, and lying to the Coast Guard. After it was caught for its long standing environmental crimes, Princess president Jan Swartz issued a public apology, saying that the cruise line was supposedly "committed to environmental practices that protect the marine environment."

Unfortunately, Princess Cruises’ statement that it released so-called "eco-friendly" balloons suggests that Princess still hasn’t learned much about protecting the marine environment.

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Photo credit:

Top – Princess Cruises Facebook page.

Bottom – BalloonsBlow.org

The cruise industry is touting a report titled Evaluation of Cruise Industry, Global Environmental Practices and Performance.

It’s a non-critical summary paid for by the industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). The report is largely a PR stunt which omits the relevant, recent history of the practice committed over the course of at least a decade of routinely dumping oil from cruise ships owned by the largest cruise line in the world.

It has been less than four months since the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fined Princess Cruises and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, $40,000,000 for polluting the seas and trying to cover it Cruise Pollutionup. Carnival and Princess pleaded guilty to seven felony charges of illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess cruise ship which sailed to numerous U.S. states (Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and two territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico).

The DOJ says that "in addition to the use of a magic pipe to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitor required pollution prevention equipment, the U.S. investigation uncovered two other illegal practices which were found to have taken place on the Caribbean Princess as well as four other Princess ships – Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess. One practice was to open a salt water valve when bilge waste was being processed by the oily water separator and oil content monitor. The purpose was to prevent the oil content monitor from otherwise alarming and stopping the overboard discharge. The second practice involved discharges of oily bilge water originating from the overflow of graywater tanks into the machinery space bilges. This waste was pumped back into the graywater system rather than being processed as oily bilge waste. Neither of these practices were truthfully recorded in the oil record book as required.

But you won’t read any reference to magic pipes and falsified log books in the PR release by the cruise industry’s trade organization, Cruise Line International Association ("CLIA"). 

Cruise line cheerleaders, like Travel Pulse, published over-the-top self-laudatory articles like The Cruise Industry Is Winning at Environmental Performance

Conspicuously absent from CLIA PR efforts is any mention of environmental problems caused by the cruise lines. Consider the following articles within the last year:

The world’s largest cruise ship and its supersized pollution problem (Guardian).

Cruise Industry Gets “F” for Transparency, Cutting Emissions (World Maritime News).

Carnival Corp ship caught in pollution scheme. Now they’re paying $40 million for it (Miami Herald).

Cruise industry ‘failing’ environment and public health, report claims (Telegraph).

Princess Cruises Pollution Cover-Up: Are the Greedy Cruise Executives Untouchable? (Cruise Law News).

This CLIA-paid-for-report is part of the cruise industry’s reputation rehabilitation. Last January, Princess Cruises issued a press statement via PR Newswire that it had been voted the "Best Ocean Cruise Line" in the USA TODAY and 10Best Readers Choice cruise travel awards, despite the DOJ’s record environmental fine just a month earlier. 

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Photo crdit: NABU via Telegraph

The Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente E Dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) (IBAMA) levied a fine of R$ 2.505 million against MSC Cruises.

Based on today’s exchange rate, the fine is approximately $635,545 in U.S. dollars.

IBAMA said that MSC Cruises released garbage into the sea during a cruise between Madeira Island and MSC Garbage Dumpingthe Port of Recife.

The complaint of the environmental crime was made by one of the ship’s passengers who was on board the MSC ship during a cruise between November 26 to December 10, 2013.

I previously wrote about the crime in an article dated December 2013 titled Video: MSC Cruise Ship Dumps Garbage Bags Off Coast of Brazil.

I later posted an article and showed videos of the illegal dumping from the Magnifica sent to me by a crew member on the MSC cruise ship.

It appears that the fine was issued in 2014 after IBAMA viewed video and photographs and listened to testimony, but the fine was not immediately disclosed to the public.

You can see photographs of the dumping here

MSC later touted itself an a steward of the seas.

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https://youtube.com/watch?v=F9cxZXlP5xY%3Frel%3D0

  

https://youtube.com/watch?v=0XpK7zMs0Dk%3Frel%3D0

 

A reader of Cruise Law News has informed us that a television station in Brazil just released a story about a MSC cruise ship dumping garbage bags into the sea off of the coast of Brazil. The story is based on a cruise passenger’s account.You can see what appears to be blag bags being throw out of the ship from what a lower deck. The ship had sailed from Italy and the dumping seems to have occurred after the ship made its transatlantic voyage and before it arrived in Brazil.

The vídeo is in Portuguese. 

Here’s the information on the YouTube site:

"O navio saiu de Gênova, na Itália. De acordo com passageiro que fez o flagrante, funcionários do navio começaram a jogar os sacos de lixo no mar quando entrou na costa brasileira. A reportagem foi exibida no SBT Brasil."

The translation: "The ship left Genoa, Italy. According to passengers, employees of the ship began to throw the trash bags in the sea when it joined the Brazilian coast. The report aired on SBT Brazil."

A news article from Brazil states that the disposal was close to the natural sanctuary of Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Pernambuco. Here’s the translation:

"A passenger on the MSC cruise, which left Genoa, Italy, captured on video the moment official liner trash bags dumped at sea. According to international standards, the waste of these vessels should be treated and separated before being dispensed. 

According to the passenger, businessman Sergio de Oliveira, the staff of the ship began to throw the trash bags in the sea when the ship entered the Brazilian coast. The man also claims that one of the sites chosen for the drop was close to the natural sanctuary of Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Pernambuco. The businessman lodged the complaint to the prosecutor in Apucarana."

If you have information to share about this incident, please leave a comment or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

 

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Governor Parnell and the pro-cruise pollution legislators in Alaska have some new talking points in their efforts to weaken the cruise line waste water restrictions. They say that its not the cruise sewage that will harm the state’s image but their opponents’ "hype" that easing the standards will result in "dirty water and terrible discharges."        

Putting aside for a moment the nasty spectacle of dumping partially treated sewage into the water, the fact is that cruise ship water treatment devices clearly do not treat all of the wastewater discharged in Alaskan waters in compliance with Alaska’s water quality standards regarding ammonia, as well as the heavy metals – copper, nickel and zinc.

Alaska Cruise Ship Pollution It’s unhealthy and dangerous to release these heavy metals into the waters where they will find their way in the fish, particularly salmon. 

Three years ago, the cruise industry flat out threatened Governor Parnell that it would boycott Alaska unless he would agree to work with the cruise lines to avoid pollution regulations. Read Governor Parnell Gets Punked.

Instead of demanding better technologies to address this problem, as required by the 2006 initiatives, Governor is heading the state in the other direction where no efforts will be made to address the problems with heavy metals. Meanwhile, the sewage (whether partially treated or not) will continue to fill the Alaskan waters.   

A newspaper in Ketchikan explains that this is a huge problem given the enormous amount of sewage and toxic by-products which cruise ships will dump in Alaskan waters:

"About 30 cruise ships carrying a total of nearly one million people visit Alaska over a five month period. This result is over one billion gallons of cruise discharges being dumped into unknown areas of Alaska state waters every year."

The newspaper also points out that on January 29th, as the relaxed laws were being fast tracked by legislators, Princess Cruises was fined $20,000 (a slap on the wrist) when one of its cruise ships, the 2,590 passenger Golden Princess, discharged 66,000 gallons of chlorinated pool water into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.  

Zinc, nickel and copper in the fish and chlorine in the water. Alaska is heading backwards.

Read our last article on these disturbing developments in Alaska:

The Dirty Alaskan Cruise Industry Just Got Dirtier

In 2006, Alaskan citizens sent a clear message to the cruise industry that cruise ships could not treat the beautiful waters of Alaska like a toilet.  

Seven years ago Alaskan voters approved legislation that prohibited cruise ships from discharging "untreated sewage, treated sewage, graywater or other wastewaters in a manner that violates any applicable effluent limits or standards under state or federal law, including Alaska Water Quality Standards governing pollution at the point of discharge.” 

Alaska Salmon Fisheries - Cruise Ship PollutionThe Alaskan regulations strictly restricted the level of ammonia, copper, nickel and zinc.  As of 2009, cruise ships were routinely being caught violating the Alaska regulations.  In this chart, in 2009 alone, there were forty-one (41) violations of Alaska’a waster water and air emission laws by Celebrity, HAL, NCL, Princess, Regent Seven Seas, Royal Caribbean and Silverseas, with Carnival-owned Princess and HAL cruise ships being the greatest offenders. 

The Miami-based cruise industry is used to getting its way. Cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are used to dumping untreated sewage in the waters of powerless Caribbean countries. Most port nations and even most states in the U.S. where the cruise lines base their cruise ships have not enacted any waste water discharge regulations whatsoever.  

But Alaska was different,  It not only passed legislation that banned the nasty cruise line practice of opening the bowels of the huge ships into the state’s waters but it took steps to levy a realistic head tax of $50 per passenger to offset the damage to Alaska’s infrastructure caused by the massive cruise ships.

The cruise lines did not like Alaska’s exercise of its state rights one bit. The cruise industry spent millions of dollars lobbying against waste water regulations. It attacked the green water scientists, removed the honest water experts from oversight panels, inserted cruise industry hacks, and bullied state officials and concerned citizens.  

Carnival led the charge. It threatened Alaskan Governor Parnell that it would pull its ships from Alaska and it sued the state along with other cruise lines to avoid the $50 head tax.

Alaskan Governor Parnell backed down and sent a message to the cruise industry that the state’s water emission laws are negotiable. Alaska caved in and reduced its $50 head tax. Alaska began sliding down the slippery slope as the cruise lines increased their lobbying and threatened to boycott Alaska. 

The result today is that at Governor Parnell’s urging, the House of Representatives just voted to essentially repeal all of the 2006 waster water initiatives. The debate is now moving to the Senate.

A repeal of the 2006 laws will be disastrous to the waters of Alaska.

Alaskan Cruise Ship - Pollution Waste WaterAs explained in this thoughtful blog, "a single cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, over a million gallons of greywater, 130 gallons of hazardous wastes such as poisonous metals, and 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water in a single week-long cruise. There are 28 very large cruise ships which operate up to 150 days annually in Alaska. Such large quantities of pollution are a threat to Alaska’s critical fisheries." 

This results is approximately 1,064,448,000 gallons of sewage and wastewater being dumped into Alaska state waters every year. The really sinister part of the abandonment of the pollution laws is that Republicans rejected Democratic amendments which would have required disclosure of the location of sewage discharges and protected fisheries from sewage discharges.

The thought of the cruise industry dumping over a billion gallons of cruise ship crap into the salmon filled waters is really gross.  They can keep the locations secret too.  I hate to think of all of the norovirus-laden poop floating around with the fish.  But this is the reality of a cruise industry which projects itself as a steward of the seas but is actually the Alaskan waters’ worst enemy.

 

Photo:

Salmon – earthjustice.com

The Smart Planet blog has an interesting article about the effects of the ever growing cruise industry upon ports in Asia.

Entitled Hong Kong Contends with Pollution from a Growing Cruise Industry, the article reveals the extent to which cruise lines are still burning bunker fuel while not even equipping their ships with the ability to plug into shore-side electrical power.  

The articles states that "emissions from berthed ships are considered the No. 1 contributor to Hong Kong Cruise ship air PollutionHong Kong’s severe air pollution problem and are said to account for 40% of greenhouse gases within its borders. Coming from cruise and cargo ships, these emissions outdo that of power plants and road vehicles."

Cruise ships and other large vessels are still burning bunker fuel while in port.

Bunker fuel is the nastiest and deadliest fuel in the world. Burning low-sulfur fuel is more expensive and there is no legal requirement in Hong Kong at this time to use the cleaner fuel.

Without a threat of a fine or some other legal consequence, the cruise industry will always choose the least expensive and most environmentally destructive path.

Check out a non-profit group’s Facebook page about ship pollution in Hong Kong.

There are some interesting photos of ships polluting the port with deadly smoke, including the Star Pisces (photo above right).  Don’t be fooled that this is just a problem over in Hong Kong. Star Cruises has maintained a large ownership of Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Lines for years.    

The article explains that Hong Kong’s air pollution is a major health threat and results in deaths in the city estimated between 1,200 and 3,00 per year.

Pier Luigi Foschi Costa - Carnival AsiaAt a cruise forum last week, Pier Luigi Foschi, the chief executive of Carnival Asia, objected to the requirement for cruise ships to use shore-side power. He said it is unrealistic to require ships to use on-shore power because many cruise ships are not equipped to be plugged in. That begs the question why at this late date all cruise ships don’t have a big cable that can be hooked up to the clean electrical power at the ports around the world.  

You may recall Mr. Foschi was the CEO of Costa Crociere when the Concordia crashed last year.  I’m not so sure I would give much weight to anything he says.   

 October 31, 2016 Update: Cruise ships: a paradise of fun or floating killing machine?

Photo Credit:

Top: Star Pisces – Hong Kong Pollution Watch Facebook Page

KTOO news station in Alaska reports today that the Environmental Protection Agency fined Princess Cruises $20,000 for dumping water from six swimming pools aboard the Golden Princess cruise ship into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in 2011.

The EPA announced the fine against the cruise line yesterday.

Princess was forced to sign a consent agreement admitting responsibility and subjecting itself to a final court order. Princess admitted that it violated the Clean Water Act in May 2011 when it discharged Princess Cruises Pollution Glacier Bay Alaskamore than 66,000 gallons of pool water into the pristine waters of Glacier Bay.

Princess Cruises claims that a "software malfunction," on the Golden Princess, somehow caused all six of the pool valves to open. This dumped chlorinated water from all of the cruise ship’s pools as well as whirlpools into the national park and preserve.

The waste-water permits for large cruise ships prohibit the discharge of pool and spa water in national parks and refuges. 

The fine comes at a time when the Governor of Alaska is agreeing to roll back the strict water emission laws of Alaska as urged by the cruise industry

Princess Cruises has the worst environmental record in the Alaskan waters, and has been caught discharging illegal levels of waste water over the recent years.  Before the state of Alaska began passing strict environmental laws, the cruise industry openly dumped raw sewage and chemicals throughout the Alaskan waters.   

The Vancouver Sun published a provocative headline this weekend entitled "B.C. Waters a Toilet Bowl of Raw Sewage."

It caught my attention after my family just returned from a vacation from British Columbia, where my kids surfed and we went whale watching in the B.C. waters.

Environmentalists’ believe that waters off British Columbia in Canada are the "toilet bowl of North America" as dozens of cruise ships heading to and from Alaska dump sewage in Canadian waters.  U.S. regulations in states like Alaska and Washington have tightened in the last decade Cruise Ship Pollution - Waste Water - Black Water - Grey Waterforcing cruise ships to follow stringent sewage treatment rules before disposing of waste those states.

The article indicates that cruise ships have another option: they can dump sewage and grey water —waste water from showers, sinks and laundry — into B.C. waters where rules are "lax."

Cruise ships are taking advantage of Canada’s weaker laws on sewage discharge to save money.

"B.C. is now the toilet bowl of the West Coast of North America. In Canada, says Ross Klein, a professor in Canada.  Klein points out that Alaska and Washington monitors grey water discharges, but there is no such monitoring in Canada where cruise ships are free to dump.

The article points out that the U.S. cracked down on cruise ships in 2007 when the Mercury cruise ship operated by Celebrity Cruises was caught illegally dumping into waters between Washington and Vancouver Island.

The Mercury faced 10 charges, but three charges were dropped because the infractions were in Canada.  Celebrity received a $100,000 fine in Washington, but didn’t face any punishment in Canada.

I have written many articles about the cruise industry’s practice of pollution  Here are a few to consider:

Earth Day – Spotlight on Cruising – A Dirty Business

Cruise Industry: "Notorious Polluters"

Reason No. 8 Not To Cruise: Blackwater, Blackwater, Blackwater

Reason No. 9 Not To Cruise: Bunker Fuel – Nasty Tar Sludge!

Dirty Cruise Industry Tries to Wiggle Out Of Clean Air Law

When I began practicing maritime law, cruise lines openly dumped raw sewage into the water and threw hundreds of black garbage bags overboard during every cruise.  Only through the enactment and enforcement of legislation has there been an improvement in the U.S.   But the cruise lines are free to pollute in the waters of countries like Canada and the powerless Caribbean islands which are desperate for U.S. tourist dollars.  

 

Credits:

Cruise Ship Cartoon      Shields via EarthIsland.org and Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waterways

Newspapers in Alaska are reporting that the cruise industry is behind the sudden removal of a highly qualified green water scientist from an advisory council on cruise ship waste water discharge.

Gershon Cohen - Cruise Pollution - AlaskaIn December 2009, the Alaskan Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC") invited environmental scientist Gershon Cohen to join the state’s cruise ship waste water treatment science panel.  The advisory panel has 11 members, with experts in naval architecture, marine engineering and waste water treatment. A representative of the cruise industry sits on the panel as well.

However, the DEC Commissioner, Larry Hartig, disinvited Cohen due to what is described in the newspapers as "corporate influence and pressure" by the cruise industry.

Dr. Cohen is one of the foremost experts in the world on water pollution and clean water technologies.  He has a background in biological sciences, with a Masters Degree in Molecular Biology.  He also is educated in water policy law, with a Ph.D. in Environmental Policy.  Dr. Cohen co-founded the Alaska Clean Water Alliance (ACWA) in 1992, which played a lead role in numerous successful clean-water campaigns. Dr. Cohen founded the Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters (C-SAW), a project of the Earth Island Institute in 1998, to protect public waters from the discharge of toxic pollutants.

In response to Dr. Cohen’s unceremonious ouster, a group of Democratic legislators have written a letter to Governor Parnell, complaining of the "corporate abuse" by the cruise lines, and requesting that Dr. Cohen be re-instated. In an article entitled "Lawmakers Call on Parnell to Reinstate Dismissed Scientist," Senator Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, is quoted as stating:

"That is not how we should be doing business . . . When we’re talking about positions that deal with  sensitive environmental issues, the protection of Alaska waters, the protection of Alaska lands we should not be letting industry dictate who’s on commissions, who’s on panels—absolutely, positively not." 

Pristine Waters - Alaska - Gershon Cohen - Cruise Ship PollutionCruise lines are not happy with Dr. Cohen because, as a clean water advocate, he has spent decades advising Alaska about cruise ship water discharge.  In 2006, he was successful in assisting the state of Alaska in adopting an initiative to protect Alaskan waters by requiring the placement of "Ocean Rangers" on cruise ships to monitor discharges.  This program has been successful in preventing cruise lines from dumping pollutants into Alaskan waters and catching them when they do.  There have been 30 violations of Alaska Wastewater Quality Standards by cruise lines in the last six months alone, mostly by Princess Cruises which repeatedly discharged high levels of ammonium and fecal matter into Alaska’s pristine waters.  

Getting Dr. Cohen fired from the panel was pay back by the cruise industry. 

The editorials in the Alaskan newspapers unanimously oppose the cruise industry’s behind-the-scenes removal of Dr. Cohen.

In an editorial "Our View: Odd Firing," the Anchorage Daily News reports: "It’s hard to imagine a more qualified applicant. He stands out among Alaska environmentalists for his thorough knowledge of cruise ship wastewater issues . . . Cohen likely would push for the best available technology, period, and as soon as possible."

We have seen the cruise industry maneuver behind the scenes in the past to try and protect its interests. 

In 2007 when Congress was studying the problem of shipboard sexual assaults, our client Laurie Dishman was invited by a Congressional sub-committee to testify regarding her horrific experience of being strangled and raped on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.  When she reported the crime, the cruise ship doctor gave her a garbage bag and told her to go back to her cabin and collect the evidence herself.   The cruise line thereafter refused to provide her with the name of the rapist or even provide her with copies of her own shipboard medical records. When Royal Caribbean realized that Ms. Dishman had contacted her Congresswoman and was going to be testify, it lobbied certain Congressional members to strike Ms. Dishman from the panel.  It failed.  As a result of Ms. Dishman’s testimony, the House of Representatives passed the "Cruise Safety and Security Act of 2009."   

The people of Alaska face a easy choice.  Do you want an expert who has the education, training and experience to protect your pristine waters?    Or will you let the Miami based cruise industry – which is still polluting your waters – dictate the quality of your air and water by making deals behind closed doors?  As concluded by the Anchorage Daily News: 

"One of the primary reasons Alaska cruising may well be the world’s cleanest is because activists like Cohen have fought for it. The industry may not welcome him — but that’s no reason for the state to throw him off the panel."

 Cruise Ship Pollution - Alaska

 

We have written about cruise ship dumping, cruise waste discharges and air emissions, and the cruise industry’s shenanigans in Alaska in prior articles:   

Cruise Ship Bunker Fuel – "Thick, Tarry Sludge"

New Report Details Cruise Industry’s Record of Pollution

Polluting Cruise Industry Files Lawsuit to Avoid Alaskan Tax

The "Alaska" Cruise Association’s Lawsuit Against Alaska – Pay Back By Tax-Avoiding Miami Cruise Lines

Carnival Announces Quarterly Profits of $1,100,000,000 – But Pushes Lawsuit Against Alaska Over $50 Tax

Cruise Industry Exaggerates Effect of $50 Alaska Tax and Hides Financial Information

 

Credits:

Dr. Cohen photograph                                   Conservation Institute

Kayak in Alaskan waters photograph            Conservation Institute