Cruise ships harm the environment, people and local communities – and they don’t pay taxes


While a cruise around the Mediterranean or Antarctica might seem like the height of all-inclusive luxury, you might not think the negative impacts are worth it after reading this.

New research shows that passengers on a seven-day trip around Antarctica can produce as much CO2 as the average European in an entire year.

And that’s not all. The to study also discovered that a large cruise liner can have a larger carbon footprint than 12,000 cars, while a night on board uses 12 times more energy than a hotel stay.

“For decades, the business practices of the cruise industry have threatened coastal and marine ecosystems and the climate, and endangered the public health of coastal communities, passengers and crew,” said Marcie Keever , Director of the Ocean and Ships Program at Friends of the Earth US.

Cruising does not only affect the environment. Study authors Josep Lloret, Arnau Carreño Hrvoje Carić, Joan San and Lora E. Fleming found that the industry also has an impact on human health, with port dwellers affected by noise and pollution. atmospheric.

Boat and shipyard personnel also have to live with harsh working environments and the risk of injury.

Which cruise line has the worst environmental record?

According to Friends of the Earth, there is clearly a worst offender when it comes to environmental crimes.

“Carnival Corporation – the parent company of 10 major cruise lines, including Princess, Holland America and Costa. Carnival Corp. is currently on federal criminal probation in the United States for environmental offenses, ”Keever said.

Probation began in 2017 after she was ordered to pay a fine of $ 40 million (€ 35 million) for illegally dumping oil at sea and then hiding it from regulators.

In 2016, the company pleaded guilty to regularly falsifying its records in order to hide illegal discharges from US authorities for eight years. The company was also fined heavily for dumping plastic into the ocean and exceeding air pollution quota limits.

In contrast, they only had to pay $ 250 in 2018 to dump gray water into Glacier Bay National Park.

The environmental cost of cruises

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cruise industry was one of the fastest growing travel sectors, with passenger numbers steadily increasing year on year. Even though cruise ships represent only a small fraction of the global shipping industry, their impact is enormous.

The article, “Impacts on human and environmental health of cruise tourism: a review”, published in the Marine pollution bulletin, estimates that 24% of all waste produced by shipping comes from the cruise industry. A cruise ship carrying 27,000 passengers produces more than a ton of waste every day.

Much of this waste is incinerated and disposed of at sea, endangering countless sea creatures and marine life. The report also talks about illegal dumping of waste.

Cruising doesn’t just affect the environment.

Study authors Josep Lloret, Arnau Carreño Hrvoje Carić, Joan San and Lora E. Fleming found that the industry also has an impact on human health, with port dwellers affected by noise and pollution. atmospheric.

Boat and shipyard personnel also have to live with harsh working environments and the risk of injury.

Which cruise lines are the worst offenders?

For two years Friends of the Earth gathered data on the worst offenders in the cruise industry, categorizing them each on a number of different topics including sewage treatment, air pollution reduction, transparency and any criminal offenses .

In the wastewater treatment category, which examines whether sewage and gray water treatment systems are used or whether the wastewater is discharged directly into the oceans, none of the companies scored above a C score. .

Of the 18 listed cruise lines, 10 of them – including P&O Cruises, Princess, Cunard and Costa – received an F, the worst possible rating.

The eight cruise lines that have committed criminal offenses for various illegal acts – such as dumping sewage and oil at sea – are all owned by Carnival Corporation.

“Most governments refuse to adopt strict regulations for the cruise industry, ignore the industry’s continued damage to communities and the environment, or give in to pressure from the industry.” says Marcie Keever of Friends of the Earth US.

Which cruise lines are improving?

Disney Cruises topped the Friends of the Earth newsletter with a B- overall. It received three A’s for air pollution reduction, water quality compliance and transparency, and a C for wastewater treatment.

“Disney Cruise Lines is at the top of our report card and would have received higher marks, but over the past two years we have downgraded Disney for its efforts to build a massive cruise ship port at Lighthouse Point in the Bahamas,” Keever said.

“This development is opposed by community groups in the Bahamas for the destruction it would cause to the ecologically rich area which has been given Marine Protected Area status.”

The company states that they have dedicated environmental agents on all of their ships and that they recycle over 600 tonnes of metal, glass and plastic each year.

The only other cruise line to exceed the D rating was Silversea Cruises, which received a C, obtaining a high rating for water quality compliance and transparency.

Is it easier to catch COVID-19 while cruising?

The study also highlighted the role of cruise ships in the spread of infectious diseases. This was revealed at the start of the pandemic in 2020, when cruise ships such as the Diamond Princess became hotbeds for the virus.

A COVID-19 outbreak was first reported on the ship in early February 2020 and ended up infecting more than 700 people in total, resulting in 14 deaths. The ship was quarantined outside of Japan for 27 days.

As a result, the cruise industry must adapt, with Disney Cruises now requiring all passengers – even those under the age of five – to be fully vaccinated in order to join their cruises from mid-January 2022.

What can cruise passengers do to be more respectful of the environment?

Cruise ships need to “be more transparent” according to Dr Hrvoje Carićm of the Croatia Tourism Institute and co-author of the study.

“Cruise lines do not pay taxes in the EU and we believe they should be analyzed further from the point of view of the ‘polluter pays’ principle. In addition, they do not have the same standards and pollution thresholds as tourism and land transport.

Unlike hotels and resorts which, because of their permanence, maintain relationships with local communities, cruise passengers do not have long-term commitments to their destinations.

Friends of the Earth also want the cruise ship industry to be more heavily regulated and have created a detailled plan they would like cruise lines to sign up.

The plan includes a public commitment to zero emissions and to reduce speed below 12 knots within a 25 mile radius of the coast. This would prevent ships from hitting whales and also eliminate noise disturbance to marine life and coastal areas.

Carićm believes that part of the responsibility also lies with the EU.

“The EU should promote emission-controlled zones and demand cleaner fuels and ultimately decarbonize the sector.”


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