Being an avid cruiser, I do wonder what impact a cruise ship has on the environment and on climate change. A lot it seems in terms of air born particulates from the burning of dirty fuels, the releasing of off-gas scrubber, food and sanitary wastes into the sea, running into whales and other fish while all the time generating tons and tons of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) contributing to global warming. The conclusions I get from watching the video below are that cruise ships are exempt from many environmental damage and GHG regulations, enforcement is particularly difficult on the open seas and that the overall problem is largely being ignored at present.
I did a search on Cruisecitic.com and could find only one users’ discussion thread asking if people felt guilty about cruising knowing that the ship damages the environment. The overall response was no. Hence there would appear to be very little consumer pressure on cruise lines for increasing their transparency and rate of progress toward improved environmental practices and obtaining net-zero operational carbon footprints.
Despite this scenario, cruise lines are making some improvements:
- Converting to cleaner fuels such as low sulfur diesel and LNG
- Connecting to shore power and turning of engines when in port
- Buying wind farms as a carbon off-set to GHGs emission
- Installing improved technology gas scrubbers and waste water treatment facilities
- Researching carbon free propulsion systems in the longer term
So what to make of all this? People on cruises for the most part don’t care about the environmental damage their ship is doing. Nor do they want to know about it it seems. If they did, they would likely opt out of cruising as a protest. Hence, at present IMHO it is an oxymoron to go on cruises and say that you are concerned about the environment. I guess I am guilty!!
One way of starting to turn this around is to inform cruisers on board, what they can do to minimize their personal impact while on board: e.g., don’t run air conditioning with the balcony door open, turn off lights when leaving cabin, recycle towels longer, don’t waste food, recycle things, how to carbon off-set a cruise etc..
A more controversial measure might be to implement an “environmental tax” on individual cruises that would vary with the cruise line environmental practice rating (currently Disney is doing best at D-, Carnival and Royal Caribbean got an F, according to Friends of the Earth). Also increasing fines and publicizing cruise ship environmental violations would help cruisers make more informed decisions about who to cruise with. Not good for overall cruise business for sure. However just to start discussing the subject is a first step forward. Anyone want to go on a discussion themed cruise to get the ball rolling? Any other good ideas out there folks?