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

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While a cruise around the Mediterranean or Antarctica may seem like the pinnacle of all-inclusive luxury, after reading this you may feel like it’s not worth the ills.

New studies show that passengers on a seven-day trip around Antarctica can produce as much CO2 as the average European in a whole year.

And that’s not all. the to learn also found that a large cruise ship can have a larger carbon footprint than 12,000 cars, while an overnight stay on board consumes 12 times more energy than an overnight stay in a hotel.

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

Cruises don’t just pollute the environment. The study’s authors, Josep Lloret, Arnau Carreño Hrvoje Carić, Joan San, and Lora E. Fleming, found that industry also has an impact on human health as those who live near ports are exposed to noise and air pollution are affected.

Boat and shipyard personnel also have to live with difficult work environments and the risk of injury.

Which cruise company has the worst environmental record?

According to Friends of the Earth, there is clearly one worst culprit when it comes to environmental crime.

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

The probation period began in 2017 after she was fined $ 40 million for illegally dumping oil at sea and then hiding it from regulators.

In 2016, the company pleaded guilty to periodically falsifying its records to hide illegal layoffs from US authorities for eight years. The company has also been fined heavily for dumping plastic in the oceans and exceeding air pollution limits.

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

The environmental cost of cruises

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the cruise industry was one of the fastest growing travel industries, with passenger numbers increasing steadily year over year. Although cruise lines make up only a small part of the global shipping industry, their impact is enormous.

The paper “The Environment and Health Impacts of Cruise Tourism: A Review” published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, estimates that 24 percent of all waste generated in shipping comes from the cruise sector. A cruise ship with 27,000 passengers produces more than a ton of rubbish every day.

Much of this garbage is incinerated and disposed of at sea, putting innumerable sea creatures and marine life at risk. The report also speaks of illegal landfilling.

Cruises don’t just pollute the environment.

The study’s authors, Josep Lloret, Arnau Carreño Hrvoje Carić, Joan San, and Lora E. Fleming, found that industry also has an impact on human health as those who live near ports are exposed to noise and air pollution are affected.

Boat and shipyard personnel also have to live with difficult work environments and the risk of injury.

Which cruise lines are the worst culprits?

For the past two years Friends of the earth have compiled data on the worst criminals in the cruise industry and rated them on a variety of topics including wastewater treatment, air pollution reduction, transparency and criminal offenses.

In the wastewater treatment category, which examines whether wastewater and gray water treatment plants are used or whether wastewater is discharged directly into the oceans, none of the companies achieved a grade C.

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

The eight cruise lines with criminal violations for a variety of illegal activities – such as disposing of sewage and oil at sea – are all owned by Carnival Corporation.

“Most governments refuse to impose strict regulations on the cruise industry, ignore the continuing damage the industry is doing to communities and the environment, or give in to pressure from the industry,” said Marcie Keever of Friends of the Earth US.

Which cruise lines are improving?

Disney Cruises took first place in the Friends of the Earth testimonial with an overall B victory. 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 rating and should have got better grades, but over the past two years we’ve downgraded Disney for its push to build a huge cruise port at Lighthouse Point in the Bahamas,” says Keever.

“This development is rejected by community groups in the Bahamas because it would destroy the ecologically rich area that has received the status of a marine reserve.”

the Corporate states that they have dedicated environmental officers on all their ships and that they recycle more than 600 tons of metal, glass and plastic every year.

The only other cruise line that came via a D class was Silversea cruises, which was awarded a C and scores very well in terms of compliance with water quality and transparency.

Is It Easier To Catch COVID-19 On A Cruise?

The study also highlighted the role of cruise lines in the spread of infectious diseases. That came to light at the start of the pandemic in 2020 when cruise ships like the Diamond Princess became breeding grounds for the virus.

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

As a result, the cruise industry has to adapt as Disney Cruises now requires that all passengers – including those under five – be fully vaccinated in order to be able to participate in their cruises from mid-January 2022.

What can cruise companies do to get greener?

Cruise ships have to be “more transparent”, says Dr. Hrvoje Carićm from the Institute for Tourism in Croatia and co-author of the study.

“Cruise companies do not pay taxes in the EU and we believe that they should be analyzed more thoroughly from a polluter pays perspective. In addition, they do not have the same standards and pollution limits as land-based tourism and transport. “

Unlike hotels and resorts, which by virtue of their permanence have relationships with local communities, cruise lines have no long-term commitments to their destinations.

Friends of the Earth also want the cruise industry to be more regulated and have one Detailed plan They want cruise lines to sign up.

The plan includes a public commitment to zero emissions and to reduce speed to less than 12 knots within 25 miles of the coast. This would prevent ships from hitting whales and also remove noise interference for marine animals and coastal areas.

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

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


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