What would a clean cruising industry look like?
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Problems with cruise ships are extensive. From the overall environmental impact of cruise ships to cruise ship pollution effects on marine life — the cruise industry needs to clean up its act.
In order to have clean cruising, we need the cruise industry to stop contributing to the climate crisis, polluting our air and water, destroying marine ecology, oceans, beaches and coral reefs with waste, and hiding their emissions.
Solutions to cruise ship pollution
Here are the top 5 things the cruise industry can do now to get to clean cruising:
1) Climate change: Stop contributing to climate change.
(1.1) Publicly commit to achieving zero emissions across your entire global fleet, with a 40% reduction in the first decade, followed by a minimum of 5% year-over-year reductions. (1.2) Immediately progress towards your absolute greenhouse gas reduction targets by implementing a slow-steaming protocol across your entire fleet. (1.3) Halt LNG investments, and redirect those resources towards zero emissions strategies, including research, development, and testing of sustainable fuels such as green hydrogen. (1.4) In order to reduce unhealthy and climate-harming black carbon emissions, publicly commit to immediately cease the use and carriage of HSFO globally and the use of both HSFO and VLSFO in the Arctic. Switch to distillate/marine gasoil (MGO) and install efficient particulate filter systems or switch to other cleaner non-fossil fuels, technologies, or propulsion systems.
2) Air pollution: Stop polluting the air.
(2.1) Publicly commit to 100% shore power use by 2025. (2.2) Lead in the development of a universal shore power system. (2.3) Retrofit ships for shore power, and immediately require all ships to use shore power where it is available. (2.4) Pay 100% of the costs of shore power infrastructure in all ports of call by 2025. Do not ask, solicit or lobby for taxpayer subsidies.
3) Water pollution: Stop polluting the water.
(3.1) Publicly commit to immediately cease the use of scrubbers, whether open-loop, closed-loop, or hybrid in order to halt the discharge of polluted scrubber washwater into our oceans. (3.2) Publicly commit to voluntarily stop dumping all waste—including sewage and greywater systems—within 24 nautical miles of any coast and anywhere in any marine protected area. (3.3) Upgrade sewage and greywater systems onboard all vessels in your global fleet from Marine Sanitation Devices to Advanced Wastewater Treatment Systems, and publicly commit to using these treatment systems at all times outside of 24 nautical miles from shore. (3.4) Commit to a performance-based standard, with ongoing testing and maintenance of sewage and greywater systems to ensure they are functioning at optimal performance levels at all times and make the test results and maintenance logs publicly available.
4) Monitoring & transparency: Publicly disclose your performance.
(4.1) Install additional continuous monitoring equipment for monitoring air emissions, including but not limited to NOx, SOx, particulate matter (nano, ultrafine, fine, and coarse), and CO2. (4.2) Publicly report the data from all air emission and effluent discharge monitoring equipment, including the location and volume of discharges and all other data, in real time to a publicly available website. (4.3) Monitor sewage, graywater and other effluent discharges at the point of discharge, including but not limited to temperature (thermal pollution), PH, PAHs, BOD, turbidity, chlorine concentrations, heavy metals, ammonia, and fecal coliforms. (4.4) Make discharge, discharge location, and effluent data publicly available. (4.5) Support establishment of national government-funded programs to ensure that IMO-certified, third party monitors are on board all vessels to monitor and enforce local and national environmental and public health regulations for all ports of call.
5) Environment & biodiversity: Respect the integrity of vulnerable ecosystems and protected areas.
(5.1) Reduce speed below 12 knots within 25 miles of the coast to prevent whale strikes and avoid sonic disturbance to sensitive coastal and marine wildlife. (5.2) Limit and contain cruise tourism’s land use: stop the development of all proposed private cruise destinations so as to retain geographical character, a diverse economy, local access, and critical ecosystems. (5.3) Garbage and recycling should be processed in the port of origin. Disposal of waste products, including garbage, recyclables, and industrial waste should be processed in the home port, and not dumped in ports of call. (5.4) Cease the use of all single-use plastics regardless of the carbon source (plant vs petroleum). All crockery, glassware and utensils must be re-usable and properly stored on the ship for cleaning and re-use. (5.5) To have clean cruising, absolutely no plastic waste should be dumped overboard under any circumstances. On-board incinerators are absolutely not acceptable for disposing of plastics and should not be seen as an alternative solution.
Without all of these steps, we will never have clean cruising.
Problems with cruise ships. Do any meet the standard?
How much pollution does a cruise ship produce? Worldwide, cruise ships emit the equivalent particulate matter daily as a million cars. That’s a lot of cruise ship air pollution! But the dirty cruise ship pollution statistics don’t stop there. A large cruise ship during a weeklong voyage produces 210,000 gallons of sewage and 130 gallons of hazardous waste. They also discharge hundreds of thousands of gallons of scrubber wastewater— which is filled with heavy metals and other toxic contaminants that harm marine animals like orcas and sea turtles.
Friends of the Earth is working diligently to protect the planet from the cruise industry. We are advocating for stronger laws and regulations to protect our oceans, beaches, coastal communities, and marine wildlife.
To find out if clean cruising is possible, head on over to our Cruise Ship Report Card and explore what grade each cruise line and cruise ship received. Every year, we take a deep look into their polluting ways — did any make the grade? Explore the report card to find out.