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Cruise Ships Under Fire in Survey

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Cruise ships dumped more than a billion gallons of sewage into the ocean in 2014, much of it raw or poorly treated, an environmental group says.

Friends of the Earth, part of an international network of environmental organizations representing more than 2 million activists in 75 countries, issued its 2014 Cruise Ship Report Card after analyzing U.S. Evironmental Protection Agency data regarding cruise ship waste.

The organization graded 167 ships operated by 16 cruise lines on four criteria: sewage treatment technology, air pollution reduction, water quality compliance and transparency.

The “transparency” criterion was added this year after the cruise lines declined through their representative, Cruise Lines International Association, to provide information about their pollution-reduction technologies, Friends of the Earth said. All scored an F for transparency as a result.

Marcie Keever, Friends of the Earth oceans and vessels program director, said in a news release that the cruise lines’ lack of cooperation also obscures data from conscientious consumers who might make different choices based on how a cruise ship or line performs on the report card.

The report’s highest overall grade of C-plus was awarded to Disney Cruise Line, whose 2,700- passenger Disney Wonder ship sails from PortMiami, while lines MSC, P&O, Costa and Crystal received an F.

Princess, Holland America and Norwegian all received Cs, while Royal Caribbean and Carnival were among cruise operators scoring a D. All of these cruise operators have ships that sail from Port Everglades or PortMiami.

Some individual ships scored better than their operator overall. For example, Princess’ newest ship, Regal Princess, scored an A as did Disney Wonder. Norwegian Getaway received a B-plus.

In a response to the report, the Cruise Lines International Association, said, "This report does not provide accurate or useful information that will further public understanding of the cruise industry's true environmental performance."

In a letter to Friends of the Earth, the trade group said its members have participated in the survey in past years and have raised concerns about the "highly flawed methodology."

Shore power facilities, for example, aren't available at the majority of ports visited, so it's misleading to use this metric to rate cruise lines on air pollution reduction, the cruise lines say.

"The cruise industry fully supports the preservation of the oceans in which cruise ships travel and the destinations they visit," CLIA said. "It is both the right thing to do and integral to the future of the industry."

For years, Friends of the Earth has questioned cruise lines' efforts to keep the oceans free of pollution.

Keever said the assessment that cruise ships dumped more than 1 billion gallons of sewage is based on "federal EPA data regarding how much sewage a cruise ship can generate."

"Year to year we have continued to build our database of information on the ships and lines based on information from the cruise lines themselves, from state and federal government information, and data gathered online from the industry and the companies who install the treatment systems."

Although some cruise operators are slowly becoming greener, more than 40 percent of their ships still rely on 35-year-old waste treatment technology, Friends of the Earth says.

These "antiquated treatment systems leave harmful levels of fecal matter, bacteria, heavy metals and other contaminants in the water," Friends of the Earth said. By law, wastewater dumped within three nautical miles of shore must be treated, but beyond that ships are allowed to dump raw sewage directly into the ocean, the advocacy group said.

"We're encouraged that some cruise lines are taking incremental steps to improve their performance, but the entire industry must stop hiding behind weak regulations and take action to make sure the oceans their ships travel remain as clear as the photos in cruise brochures," Keever said.

CLIA said it is inaccurate and misleading to conclude that vessels without advanced wastewater treatment systems are discharging in a manner harmful to the environment.

*Original story: Sun Sentinel via Google News (search term: Ship)
*Image credit: Flickr/Justin Otto CC2.0
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