Ship Shape

The postings here are from Ship Shape, an ongoing series on our Clean Vessels Campaign work which gets distributed to our membership in Friends of the Earth's bi-weekly Environmental Roundup.  For more information on our work to fight pollution from marine vessels, click here.

January 30, 2009

Ship PollutionOver the years, Friends of the Earth has worked tirelessly with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to strengthen air emission standards for ships across the globe. Next on our list is establishing an IMO-sanctioned Emission Control Area (ECA) along our coastlines to provide even stronger air quality protections from vessels. Presently only two ECAs exist in the world, one in the Baltic Sea and one in the North Sea, but the good news for the breathing public is that North America should be next!

Friends of the Earth is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to assure the ECA is established. If initiated this year, the ECA will require reductions in sulfur and particulate matter from large ships by an astounding 96 percent and 85 percent, respectively, from current levels by 2015. Moreover, the ECA will mandate the use of advanced technology to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from ships. These three pollutants, in addition to causing haze, acid rain, and ocean acidification, are responsible for respiratory ailments, cancer, and thousands of cases of premature mortality in the United States.

The implementation of the ECA will bring enormous public health and environmental benefits to North America. The U.S. application is expected to be submitted to the IMO in the spring of this year. If the application is approved by the IMO, the North American ECA would become the third ECA in the world, to the great relief of coastal and even many inland residents, especially those living near major ports and heavily trafficked shipping corridors.

(Photo by Van der Veer, courtesy Greenpeace.)

January 16, 2009

SS Poopsalot Credit UnknownEPA’s final Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report was generated due to a Friends of the Earth lawsuit, requesting an EPA response to a petition we filed in December 2000.  We called for the EPA to assess pollution being discharged from the U.S.’s rapidly expanding cruise ship fleet. 

The EPA report confirms what we already knew – that cruise ships routinely dump massive amounts of poorly treated sewage and highly contaminated graywater into harbors and coastal waters. The report finds that cruise ship discharges contain concentrations of bacteria, chlorine, nutrients, metals and other pollutants that often far exceed federal water quality standards and that are harmful to human health and the marine environment. The report estimates that cruise ships produce an average of 21,000 gallons per day of sewage and 170,000 gallons per day of raw graywater (which can contain as much bacteria as sewage). The report also indicates that large volumes of sewage sludge and oily water are routinely dumped from cruise ships.

The discharging of untreated sewage and other pollutants from cruise ships is occurring in some of our most pristine and wild places. And the problem is growing. Many cruise ships now transport 5,000 passengers and crew and the next generation of ships, which are expected to go into service this year, will carry more than 8,000 passengers and crew. As cruise ship size and numbers grow, so does the pollution of our treasured places.

For more information, check out our fact sheet.

December 19, 2008

The GeminiFriends of the Earth’s advocacy results in the launch of the greenest ferry in the country!

Speeding across our waterways, ferries spew more dangerous pollutants into the air than either cars or transit buses - four to nine times more per passenger mile.  While cars and buses have cleaned up in recent decades, ferries continue to foul the air with toxic exhaust from dirty diesel engines.  Ferries also periodically strike and kill whales and marine mammals that cross their paths. 

After five years of campaigning for cleaner, safer ferries, Friends of the Earth scored a victory with last week’s launch of the Gemini, a new green ferry operated by the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA).  The Gemini has the latest air pollution control and sonar technology to reduce impacts on human health and marine life, and is the first of several new environmentally-friendly ferries due to be launched in San Francisco Bay by WETA. 

The Gemini features low-wake, low-wash hulls, forward searching sonar for avoiding collisions with whales and other marine mammals, and has committed to monitor and avoid impacts with birds.  Gemini also better protects public health through the installation of advanced emission control technology, which will make its exhaust 85 percent cleaner than federal engine standards and ten times cleaner than existing Bay Area ferries.  Friends of the Earth also advocated for the funding to install solar panels on Gemini which offset its auxiliary power needs.  The Gemini sets the standard by which all other ferries should be judged.

December 5, 2008

Monterey SanctuaryVictory for California National Marine Sanctuaries!  After years of effort, NOAA finally granted FoE’s request to ban cruise ship and large vessel discharges within California marine sanctuaries!

This means that more than 8,700 square miles of California sanctuary waters are protected from harmful sewage and graywater from cruise and container ships.  FoE started this campaign in 2003 by
petitioning NOAA to ban cruise ship discharges in our National Marine Sanctuaries.  We later extended our request to cover all vessel discharges in these sensitive ecosystems, including pollution discharges from container ships. 

We will next focus on extending these strong protections to other marine sanctuaries including the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and sanctuaries along the east coast and the Pacific Islands.  We send a big thanks to all of you who recently responded to our call to action in support of increased protections for Washington State’s Olympic Coast sanctuary.  You wrote 600 letters calling for strong sanctuary protections, including a cruise ship discharge ban.  With your continued support, we will work to convince NOAA to follow its lead in California and adopt these same strong vessel discharge protections nationwide.

November 21, 2008

Cruise Ship PollutionAlaska's marine environment is home to an incredible bounty of aquatic life surrounded by unspoiled wilderness, including valuable populations of fish and marine mammals. This vast diversity of life in Alaska's oceans are vulnerable to the threat of water pollution, particularly pollution from the cruise ships that ply Alaska's waters in ever growing numbers. In order to protect Alaska's pristine marine resources from cruise ship pollution, in 2003 Friends of the Earth began partnering with organizations in Alaska to advocate for stronger water pollution standards for cruise ships traveling through and dumping in Alaska's waters. Due in part to our efforts, the state of Alaska enacted some of the strongest environmental protections for cruise ships in the country.

Unfortunately, 60 percent of the cruise ships that traveled to Alaska this past summer failed to meet those standards and were cited for discharging water polluted with human waste and heavy metals. Fifty percent of those cited cruise ships had multiple violations. This information is available to us because of the Alaska cruise ship law's strong pollution reporting requirements and a mandatory provision for on-board observers who ensure reporting is done correctly.

In 2009, Friends of the Earth will continue to push for strong national legislation banning cruise ship pollution discharges within 12 miles of our coastline.

November 7, 2008

Olympic CoastJoin Friends of the Earth in advocating the strongest possible protections for the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Designated in 1994, this 3,310 square mile area in Washington State is one of only 13 national marine sanctuaries in the country. The sanctuary represents one of North America's most productive marine ecosystems with spectacular undeveloped shorelines. It includes most of the continental shelf, 600 islands, and three major submarine canyons. The sanctuary is also home to our nation's largest colonies of breeding seabirds, the core of Washington's sea otter range, and the winter habitat for endangered southern resident orcas.

The Olympic Coast has been spared many of the impacts of other more populated coastlines in the U.S., but increasing numbers of vessels bound to and from the nation's third-largest port complex of Seattle and Tacoma, and Canada's largest port of Vancouver, ply the waters of the sanctuary posing significant risk of oil spills and sewage discharges. Puget Sound also has a high volume oil port, the world's third-largest naval complex, and a booming cruise ship homeport, all of which increase risks to the sanctuary.

Please help preserve the amazing Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary by calling for the strongest protections possible! Take action now!

More information on the Olympic Coast NMS Management Plan.

October 24, 2008

Killer Whale by Fred FellemanIn September, the Port of Seattle adopted Friends of the Earth's proposal to dispose of 20,000 cubic yards of PCB-tainted sediment dredged from Puget Sound into a waste management facility (the alternative was to dump it back into the Sound). This decision is a victory for chinook salmon, killer whales, and the people of Puget Sound, as the salmon have the highest levels of toxic PCB of any salmon on the west coast, and killer whales have the 2nd highest PCB levels of any whales in the world. This achievement is a direct result of 18 months of advocacy and outreach by Friends of the Earth's Northwest consultant, Fred Felleman.  Fred has generated media coverage, coordinated the efforts of environmental groups, and obtained resolutions from port directors.

The Port of Seattle and King County, Washington, where the Port of Seattle is located, will share the burden of the $3.5 million cost of disposing of the toxic waste upland. This type of interagency collaboration is essential if the Puget Sound Partnership is going to meet its goals and if Puget Sound is ever to recover its endangered species -- the chinook salmon and southern resident killer whale.

Watch the coverage of Friends of the Earth's victory.

October 10, 2008

Ship ShapeFriends of the Earth and Friends of the Earth International have been working tirelessly with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to revise an international agreement that would strengthen ship emissions standards and allow countries to apply for Emission Control Area (ECA) expansions along their coastlines. This work is about to pay off!

Our staff has been in London, England this week to participate in a major IMO meeting on ship pollution. The IMO is poised to formally approve revisions to MARPOL Annex VI. Within the ECAs, dramatic reductions in ship emissions would be required, improving air quality and significantly benefiting public health and the environment.

Friends of the Earth has participated in negotiations at the IMO, generated extensive coverage of the negative health impacts of ship emissions, and submitted technical papers supporting stronger standards. Our policy successes at the state and national levels to reduce air pollution from ships also helped push the IMO into finally adopting stronger international air pollution standards. With victory at the IMO, we will turn our attention to establishing an ECA along the entire North American coastline.

IMO discussions will also cover the Secretariat's call to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships, which contribute over 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually to the atmosphere - nearly 4 percent of all human-produced carbon dioxide worldwide.

Click here to read John Kaltenstein's blog about the IMO meeting and its developments.

September 22, 2008

Question: How can you reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save whales at the same time?  Answer: By reducing ship speed! 

The North Atlantic right whale is one of the most endangered mammal species on the planet whose numbers hover dangerously around 300.  One of the greatest threats to these majestic whales is being struck by a vessel, which can result in severe injury or death. Slowing vessels can  significantly reduce the risk of whale strikes. 

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently released an environmental evaluation recommending a 10 knot speed limit along parts of the eastern U.S. coast to reduce the risk of vessel collisions with right whales.  This evaluation indicates that the risk to whales posed by slowing container ships could be reduced by 40 percent by slowing to 10 knots because of the whales' increased ability to detect and avoid approaching vessels.  Moreover, this "slow steaming" dramatically reduces fuel use, resulting in greenhouse gas emission reductions.  A fleetwide 10 percent speed reduction would result in a 23 percent decrease in carbon dioxide emissions.

Click here to ask NOAA to protect the North Atlantic right whale from ship strikes. 

More information on NOAA's Strategy to Reduce Ship Strikes to North Atlantic Right Whales.

Also, watch Friends of the Earth in this PBS special: Cruise Ship Trade-Off.

August 29, 2008

Reducing vessel speed represents one important way in which ships can limit air pollutants including greenhouse gases. A 10% decrease in fleet speed can translate into more than a 20% reduction in emissions. In California, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have incentive-based vessel speed programs that have proven successful, with participation rates of over 90%. Additionally, due to the high price of marine fuel, many shipping companies such as Maersk, Torm, Hanjin, and Hyundai have voluntarily embraced fleet speed reductions to save on fuel costs, which now account for over half of shippers' overall expenses.

Yet, even greater emission reductions through vessel speed reductions are possible, and Friends of the Earth has urged bodies such as the International Maritime Organization and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to begin crafting and implementing these measures as soon as possible. In fact, due in part to Friends of the Earth's advocacy, CARB will soon hold a public meeting to explore possible statewide measures for reducing vessel speed. Click here to learn more.

August 15, 2008

After a great amount of effort by Friends of the Earth and partners including air quality control districts, the U.S. Congress finally passed legislation last month to implement an international oceans convention to reduce harmful global air pollution, which was then signed into law by the President.

The U.S. took over a decade to adopt the 'Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Vessels' (MARPOL) Annex VI, which is administered by the International Maritime Organization. With more than 60,000 people worldwide dying prematurely each year due to ship exhaust, U.S. ratification of this convention is long overdue. It will help decrease serious health risks and air pollution by requiring container ships, tankers, cruise ships and other ocean-going vessels to adhere to international laws that reduce harmful air emissions.

August 1, 2008

Container ShipIn the last installment, we asked you to call Congress to request a hearing on cruise ship pollution and many of you did, flooding the committee line with calls.  Thank you!

Friends of the Earth's Clean Vessels campaign also works to clean up air emissions from large vessels, including cruise ships, which pollute our skies, threaten human health and cause global warming.  These vessels burn dirty bunker fuel, which literally comes from the bottom of the oil barrel and is more than 1,000 times dirtier than the diesel fuel used in trucks and buses.  In coalition with other groups, we successfully ushered in a new California regulation that requires ships to burn low-sulfur diesel fuel instead of bunker fuel within 24 nautical miles of California's coast.  The Shipping and Cruise industries are already planning to challenge it.  Click here for more about California's new rule and industry's plans to challenge it.

July 18, 2008

Welcome to the second installment of Ship Shape, a new series featuring our Clean Vessels Campaign.

We have great news to share! Just last week, Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced the Clean Cruise Ship Act of 2008 (H.R. 6434), a bill that would finally put an end to the dumping of sewage and other pollutants by cruise ships within 12 miles of our coastlines. In a single week, one large cruise ship can dump over 200,000 gallons of raw human sewage and one million gallons of graywater (polluted water from sinks, kitchens, and laundries) into our coastal waters. These polluted discharges contain bacteria and other harmful pollutants which can cause beach closings, contaminate shellfish beds, and harm sensitive marine life such as coral reefs.

Friends of the Earth has long fought to protect our oceans by ending cruise ship pollution and is working with Congressman Farr to build support for this bill and get a congressional hearing on this critical issue. But time is running out! If we don't get a hearing scheduled now, our chances of ultimately passing a bill will be diminished. Please help us get a hearing scheduled before Congress adjourns in August. Click here to ask Congress for a hearing on cruise ship pollution now.

July 4, 2008

Welcome to Ship Shape, a new series featuring our Clean Vessels Campaign! Friends of the Earth's Clean Vessels Campaign is working to fight pollution from ocean going vessels such as cargo ships and cruise ships. Ocean going vessels discharge enormous amounts of pollution -- from particulate matter, to greenhouse gas pollution, to raw sewage and oil spills. Ships also harm marine mammals directly through routine collisions with whales and other creatures.

Shipping is currently the "wild west" of pollution. Given its international nature, the shipping industry has escaped stringent national regulations typical of other pollution sources. Friends of the Earth is working to change this dynamic, and will be bringing you updates in this new feature. Our most immediate work will be on cruise ship pollution. Expect to hear more about our work on cruise ships in coming communications, and become familiar with our work in this area by visiting our website.