Solutions to Cruise Ship Pollution
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The cruise industry is a big business – a big billion-dollar business! Millions of people take to the seas year after year, and the number of tourists is expected to continue to rise. Unfortunately, as the cruise industry grows, so does the impact it has on the environment. Cruise ships are full of pollutants. Their emissions fill the air. Their waste fills the water. And their noise disrupts wildlife.
The health of our oceans, coastal communities, and climate is at risk if something isn’t done quickly. But are the solutions to cruise ship pollution in the hands of cruise industry giants?
Cruise Ships and Pollution
Sadly cruise ships and pollution go hand in hand. During the 2020 pandemic, the cruise industry was forced to pause. During that time, there were ample opportunities for giant cruise companies time to reflect on their polluting ways and establish clean cruising protocols. But when the ships returned to sea, the pollution returned with them.
Each year, Friends of the Earth assesses the industry’s business practices with our Cruise Ship Report Card. We were hopeful after the COVID-19 pandemic that companies would evaluate their impacts on the environment, public health, climate, and marine ecosystems — but the majority of the companies continued to receive failing grades.
Cruise Ship Pollution vs Cars
Would you be shocked to know that each day, cruises around the world emit the equivalent pollution of a million cars? The vast majority of cruise ships run on dirty, heavy fuel. Their toxic emissions are expensive to abate, which results in extreme amounts of particulate matter filling the air.
Just one mid-sized cruise ship can use 150 tons of fuel daily. Why so much fuel? The engines on cruise ships run 24/7 — even if when they’re in ports. While not at sea, the cruise ship still has to be fully operational. The hotel facility must be heated, cooled, and illuminated for guests needs. The spa and restaurants continue to serve guests. And all of this combined takes a whole lot of energy! The energy comes from the ship’s engines — which are forced to produce the same energy that’s required to power a small city.
Port communities and passengers are stuck taking the brunt of this pollution. The emissions that passengers breath while on a cruise are over 20 times higher than on a busy, polluted roadway.
Cruise Ship Pollution vs Planes
Now that we’ve illuminated just how bad cruise ship pollution is, you likely aren’t going to be surprised when we tell you that cruise ship pollution is also worse than flying. Comparing mile to mile, the carbon footprint of a cruise is worse than an airplane. This even factors in the damage from emissions at higher altitude from flying.
Many people have the false assumption that cruising is greener than flying. While both emit pollution into the atmosphere, cruise ships are far worse. Per passenger, per mile, a cruise emits almost double the carbon dioxide.
Cruise ship emissions are also harmful to marine environments and its inhabitants. Cruise ships are notorious for utilizing the cheapest fuel on the market. They then use scrubbers to “clean” their smokestacks, and the pollutants are dumped directly into the ocean — warming the seas and poisoning marine wildlife.
Are Cruise Ships Bad for the Environment?
As we outlined above, cruises are bad for the environment. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. We only hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways that cruises are bad for the environment. They also:
- Dump raw sewage and waste into the ocean
- Increase ocean noise
- Increase pollution in port cities
- Develop damaging ports in diverse, biologically rich locations
- Spread bacteria and viruses
- And more!
These ships cost a billion dollars or more to build. The cruise industry has deep pockets, yet giant cruise corporations continue to use the cheapest fuel allowed and do nothing to rein in their emissions and pollution.
Stop Cruise Ship Pollution
There are emerging and existing technologies that can help reduce waste produced by cruises, and fuel options that emit less carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, the cruise industry is trying to pawn off their responsibilities to protect the planet on others. Many cruise lines are now trying to make their crew and passengers be more environmentally focused and encourage them to:
- Recycle glass, cans, and paper
- Reuse bed linens and towels
- Adopt greener approach to their life aboard the ship
Yet they are overlooking the major role that they play in destroying the very destinations they travel to. They are still dumping oil and human waste into the ocean. They are still producing more pollution that a million cars a day. They are still traveling from port city to port city, polluting everything in their path.
You can help by:
- Making a donation to Friends of the Earth
- Committing to not take a cruise until the industry cleans up its act
- Using your voice to share the dangers of the cruise industry
The cruise industry will continue to pollute the environment until we hit them where it hurts — their pockets.