Cruise Ships and Port Communities • Friends of the Earth

Cruise Ships and Port Communities

Cruise Ships and Port Communities

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At one point in time cruises were considered the epitome of luxury. But now the truth has come out about this dirty industry and the negative impacts it has on port communities — opening the eyes of to travelers to see that it’s not as luxurious as it once seemed.

Cruise ships and port communities go hand in hand. Every day, ports around the world are inundated with cruise ships filling their coastlines. And while the cruise industry claims these communities receive great value for their presence, that is not the case. Sure, tourism in the areas increases, but what comes with it is typically harder on the health of the communities and the waters surrounding them. 

How Cruise Ships Impact Port Communities

The cruise industry relies heavily on their passengers and the draw to port communities. But communities around the world have been fighting back against the cruise industry to demand clean air and water. The industry sadly is known for its pollution — not just in deep ocean waters, but while sitting at the dock in port communities.

Cruise Ship Emissions

Cruise ships don’t just turn off. They have to consistently run day in and day out to keep operations going. Lights must be kept on, food must be prepared, casinos keep ringing. An overnight stay on a cruise ship uses over 12 times the energy than a stay at a normal hotel. That’s 12x the pollution dumped on this coastal community.

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For years, the cruise industry has threatened marine ecosystems and communities in port cities. Residents and wildlife are impacted by noise, water, and air pollution.

Cruise Ships in Ports

Port communities around the world are raising their voice about how cruise ships in port have impacted their homelands:

  • In Nassau, Bahamas, the profits of the cruise industry have exploited the waters, the country’s own tourism economy, and their cultural identity. The modern-day “private island” experience is taking once untouched, pristine environments and turning them into theme parks.
  • A doctor in Southampton, UK noted seeing an influx of patients with respiratory disease that could not be explained by traditional risk factors. The cruise industry has contributed up to 23% of the air pollution in the area, which has resulted in the worsening air quality and increased amount of people facing respiratory symptoms.
  • For over 14,000 years, Glacier Bay was the ancestral homeland of the Tlingit people. But as the cruise industry grew in the area, the Tlingit peoples were banned from entering their homeland to accommodate the massive cruise industry. The United States grants 200 permits annually in Glacier Bay National Park — but has kicked the indigenous people out, leaving them faceless and voiceless to the injustice against them.

Sadly, those are just three examples. There are many more. There are people suffering. There are voiceless communities who stand no chance against the deep pockets and cronies of the cruise industry. 

The Cruise Industry and Lawmakers

In November 2020, the community of Key West, Florida voted with an overwhelming margin to slash the number of passengers who were allowed to disembark in their city daily. They also voted to ban the large ships that come to their port. You can probably guess what happened next. The cruise industry decided to fight back. They worked with their cronies in the state legislature to nullify the vote and ban Key West — or any other port community in Florida—from ever regulating activity in its own port. You read that right — the cruise industry worked with state lawmakers to take away the residents right to vote on what happens in their communities! How is that even possible? We are living in an upside-down world where those impacted have their voices silenced by the big bullies with deep pockets. 

Sadly, the cruise industry won. The state of Florida lifted the ban on large cruise ships in Key West. The Governor in Florida signed a bill to overrule the Key West residents — greed of the cruise industry and state representatives that benefit from it won that victory — silencing those most impacted once again. 

Unfortunately, Key West isn’t the only port that has been or could be silenced. There are members of Congress that are invested in the cruise industry — with stocks and other interests. This makes it nearly impossible to protect local communities from the harm of these floating cities, as the government keeps giving them a green light to keep business booming.

Cruise Industry Pollution

The cruise industry is no stranger to pollution. They don’t just pollute port communities; they pollute the ocean and waterways as they travel, and the planet as a whole. 

Every day, a single mid-sized cruise ship emits the equivalent particulate matter pollution as a million cars. And this is done with dirty, heavy, toxic fuel! When in port, the cruise ships emit 20 times more than a highly polluted roadway. 

Port cities need your help to stop cruise ship pollution. Cruise ships are destroying them for a profit. They are silencing voices. 

If you’re looking for ways to help, you can:

  • Make a donation to Friends of the Earth
    • Every day our Oceans team is fighting the tough battle against Cruise Giants. Without donations from people like you, we cannot continue to fight.
  • Commit to not taking a cruise
    • The cruise industry is profiting on silencing the voices of residents in local communities. 
  • Use your voice and platform
    • Share. Share. Share. If you have social media, share this article with your friends and followers — Facebook and Twitter links are at the top of the page! 
    • If you don’t have social media, that’s ok too. You can share via email or just by word of mouth. 

Together, we can stand up to the cruise industry and the harm it’s doing to port communities, but we need as much help as we can get. 

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