Cruise ships - the largest of which carry more than 5,000 passengers and crew - are floating cities that produce enormous volumes of waste. A large cruise ship on a one week voyage is estimated to generate:
- 210,000 gallons of human sewage,
- 1 million gallons of gray water (water from sinks, baths, showers, laundry, and galleys),
- 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water,
- Up to 11,550 gallons of sewage sludge, and
- More than 130 gallons of hazardous wastes.
Most of this waste is dumped directly into the ocean, some treated, some not. In addition, luxury liners spew a range of pollutants into the air that can lead to acid rain and contribute to global warming. They can also spread invasive species by dumping untreated ballast water in coastal zones.
Watch Friends of the Earth's Fred Felleman on PBS as he talks about the dangers of Cruise Ship Pollution. Then be sure to take a second and vote in the poll!
The rapidly expanding size and number of cruise ships in US waters has triggered a national cruise ship pollution crisis. Environmental laws have not kept pace with growth of the industry. Cruise lines travel the most pristine waters of America, dumping all the way. New laws and standards are urgently needed.
Our campaign's recent efforts concerning cruise ships have revolved around successfully suing EPA to compel them to release the Draft Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report. The Assessment Report contains extensive information on cruise ship pollution discharges which has been helpful in better quantifying cruise ship pollution.
Coming Clean on Cruise Ships
With the arrival of summer, many people look forward to time away from school, work, and the responsibilities of everyday life. As a vacation choice, cruises have grown increasingly popular over the past two decades, making the industry one of the world’s fastest growing tourism sectors. Last year more than 9 million passengers took cruises on the seventeen largest cruise lines.
Congressman Sam Farr, D-CA, recently introduced the Clean Cruise Ship Act of 2006. The Clean Cruise Ship Act is a substantial but needed change from the currently under-regulated state of the cruise industry. It is also feasible. It seeks to achieve landmark reductions in water-based pollution from the many cruise ships plying our waters. The bill prohibits the discharge of hazardous waste, sewage sludge, and incinerator ash within all U.S. waters. It also prohibits the discharge of raw sewage, graywater, and oily bilge water within 12 miles of shore. Right now, this sewage can be discharged just 3 miles from where we swim and fish.
Friends of the Earth filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking an immediate response to a seven-year-old cruise ship pollution petition submitted in March of 2000. The petition asked the EPA to assess and regulate pollution from cruise ships.
Update: EPA has requested comments to the Draft Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report they issued as part of the settlement. This has given Friends of the Earth the opportunity to spell out the need for regulation in order to curb pollution from cruise ships. Read our Comments (pdf).
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