Cruise Tourism Pt 2: Impacts on the Environment

Cruise Tourism is big business. The ships are big, the food consumption is big, the entertainment is big and their chosen ports of call, get big attention.

The cruise industry also earns big.  Latest figures reveal the industry is worth 18 Billion$ per year and it is an industry that is rapidly expanding. 28 Million people are expected to take a Cruise in 2018 (1. 2018 Cruise Industry Outlook – CLIA).

But what of the impact on the Environment, and on the Communities visited?

We follow on from our first Article: Cruise Tourism: A National Development to consider the Environmental impact of Cruise Tourism.

Cruise Tourism and its Impact on the Environment

Each day, the average cruise ship produces as much air pollution as one million cars. France Nature Environnement (2. France Bleu Provence)

Whilst the Aviation Industry is taking some steps to reduce their impact on the environment, by using lighter fuel and biofuels, and linking to Carbon Reduction schemes which see the planting of trees or renewable energy.   NGO’s NABU and France Nature Environnement noted that Cruise Ships continue to use the cheaper, heavy and high polluting fuels; the fuel used has a Sulfur content alone, which is 3,500 times higher than a car.

And, so far, the Shipping Industry has been omitted from any international agreements on Climate Change.  Despite the levels of air and sea pollution that they contribute. Sulfur levels in maritime fuels can be as high as 3.5% and contributes to air and sea pollution.  Whilst docked, a cruise ship continues to consume this fuel to run its kitchens, recreation rooms and air conditioning (3. The Guardian 28 Oct 2016). 

15 of the Worlds largest ships are said to create more pollution  than all the cars in the World (4. TRT World).

Martyn Griffith, Cruise Lines International Spokesman, advised in May 2017, that Cruise Ships have been required to switch to a lower-sulfur grade fuel, when they are within 12 miles of shore for some time. To try to combat the increased pollution impacts on Ports and areas where the ships dock.  Griffith added that The International Maritime Organisation are implementing changes where Sulfur will be capped at 0.5% of shipping fuel content from 2020 (4. TRT World).

Whilst the caps being made to sulfur levels is great, the fact is that Cruise Ship industry still has no caps on Carbon Dioxide emissions or Greenhouse Gases.  The Cruise industry is increasingly a contributor of Greenhouse Gases.  And Cruise Ships are projected to account for 17% of all Greenhouse Gases by 2050 (3. The Guardian 28 Oct 2016).

Cruise Tourism Impacts on the Environment
Cruise by Numbers

And it’s not just that they are contributing to the Worlds Pollution Levels.

Even on board the air quality can be worse than the World’s most polluted cities!

An Undercover Investigation was carried out on P&O’s Oceana; a Mega Vessel, in 2017.   The Oceana had been in operation for nearly 18 years, at the time.  She weighs 77,000 Tonnes, has 12 bars, 4 restaurants, a gym, sports court, casino, golf simulator, family facilities, a spa and 4 swimming pools.  Oceana can hold just over 2,000 passengers and nearly 1,000 crew.

The undercover investigation team took measurements of the air around various locations on the ships and found shocking levels of ultra-fine particles.  The particles come from the burning fuel and can get lodged in the lungs, causing breathing difficulties, asthma and leading to Chronic Lung Disease.  Downwind of the smokestack the team measured 84,000 particulates per cubic cm. Closer to the smokestacks it shot up to 144,000 particulates per cubic cm. And in some areas the measurements were peaking at 226,000.

“These are levels that you would expect to see in the most polluted cities.”  Dr. Matthew Loxham, Research Fellow in Respiratory Biology and Air Pollution Toxicology, University of Southampton  (5. Business Insider 18 Oct 2017)

The Oceana went in for extensive refurbishment towards the end of 2017. And P&O Cruises advised that she would be fitted with new cleaning systems to reduce the exhaust, and additional systems which would reduce fuel consumption by 28% (5. Business Insider 18 Oct 2017)

What do Environmentalists say about the pollution created by Cruise Tourism?

Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth campaigner states: “It is really important to address the shipping emissions both when they are out at sea, which contributes to the overall background.  But probably, most importantly, when they’re in port. Because they are actually where people are living and breathing the air .. clearly the exhaust emissions of the ship, if it’s running its engines in port, will affect local people’s health.”   (4. TRT World)

Adrien Brunetti, France Nature Environnment equates one cruise liner to “the equivalent of a village of 8,000 inhabitants” (2. France Bleu Provence) In terms of power consumption.

Colin MacQueen, Clean Air Southampton (UK) campaigner – (4. TRT World)  stated: “Some of these cruise ships … can have the power demand of a 50,000 population town. It’s got Air-Conditioning, electrics you name it, people there; It’s Power Hungry. It’s pumping out a lot of toxins, a lot of pollution, as it sits in harbour.”

Fiona Hervey, Environmental Journalist  (4. TRT World) : “It’s cheaper for the ships to carry on the way they are, using the cheap dirty fuel. But also they don’t come under very much pressure. For Instance, International Shipping doesn’t fall under International Greenhouse Gas regulations and so it’s excluded from that. And they’re excluded from a lot of other regulations, that govern individual countries, because ships, by their nature, they go between countries”

“It’s difficult to regulate this [switching to cleaner fuels when approaching Port] because ships, by their nature, they’re either in the middle of the sea.  It’s hard to tell really, exactly what they are doing at any point in time.”

And that comment is very true.  In December 2016, Princess Cruise Lines was fined an unprecedented $40Million for dumping Oil-contaminated waste off the coast of England.  Investigations revealed that this same cruise liner had probably been dumping such waste since its maiden cruise in 2005!  The alarm was raised when, in 2013, an Engineer on the Caribbean Princess reported the illegal activity, on arrival at Southampton, England.

The company had installed a system, described in Court as a “magic pipe”, which created the intentional ability to bypass the standard pollution-prevention tools, which act to separate oil and monitor oil levels in a ship’s water.  The intentional act was bad enough, but the company also tried to cover up their activities.  US Justice Department fined the company the largest-ever criminal penalty for deliberate vessel pollution (6.  BBC News 1 Dec 2016).

Fiona Hervey, Environmental Journalist  (4. TRT World) : “We can extrapolate, from the few cases that have been found, that actually the problem is probably a lot more widespread. There are regulations governing many of the aspects of these ships pollution.  It is the enforcement of them, that is very difficult.  To enforce it requires not just the ships to comply but a lot of monitoring and surveillance etc.  Who’s going to do that?  The Coastguard?  The Navy?” 

On Wednesday 12th September 2018 Four Cruise Companies were fined by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation for Emissions Violations whilst in Port, as well as Water Quality Violations.  Holland America Line committed four violations via four of their ships.  Princess Cruise Line received two violations and the Royal Caribbean’s ship, Radiance of the Seas, was cited twice on separate occasions for excessive emissions whilst in Port.  The Norwegian Jewel was also cited, as well as other ships for Water Quality violations; the highest number since 2014!

.. there are things that could be in the emissions. Things like nitrogen oxides or particulates. Things that can be breathed in and can potentially cause some health effects” (No.8. Alaska environmental regulator cites cruise lines for air pollution violations)

Environmental Impacts Assessment: National Strategy

Impacts of Cruise Tourism

So, the question is, when creating a National Cruise Tourism Development Strategy 2016-2022 (No.9), did it include measures to counteract the levels of pollution, and impacts, that increased Cruise Tourism will bring to the Philippines?

Does the strategy stipulate, as an example that the intended new Homeports be built far away from communities, to limit the impacts on air quality and people’s health.

Is there any mention of who will be checking on the Cruise Liners to ensure that they are not dumping untreated waste, or oil, in to Philippine waters?

“Decision-makers in cruise tourism destinations, particularly those outside North America, need to work closely with operators to facilitate both integrated waste management and inter-generational and intra-societal equity rather than merely accept the prospect of short-term economic gain.” David Johnson, (No.7. Environmentally sustainable cruise tourism: a reality check)

What the Philippine National Cruise Tourism Development Strategy says about Environmental Impacts is just one line :- “The cruise lines are conscientious guardians of the environment and leave nothing behind” (No.9. Impacts Page 21).  But we know that not to be true.

This one sentence seems to be the only reference to the environmental aspect and impacts in the National Strategy.   Instead the focus appears to be ‘Making the Philippines Cruise Friendly’ rather than ‘Making the Cruises Philippine Friendly!’

We will have to hope that the Environmental Impact is a key component throughout the Strategy, which just didn’t warrant specific mentions, as it will be included in the finer details as standard.

Check out our final article in the series:

Cruise Tourism Pt 3: Impacts on Economy and Communities

Further Reading:-

  1. 2018 Cruise Industry Outlook: Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)
  2. Un navire de croisière à l’arrêt pollue autant qu’un million de voitures – France Bleu Provence 22 July 2015
  3. Shipping industry criticised for failure to reach carbon emissions deal – The Guardian 28 Oct 2016
  4. Insight: Ship Pollution – TRT World
  5. An undercover investigation reveals air quality on a cruise ship deck could be worse than the world’s most polluted cities – Business Insider 18 Oct 2017
  6. Princess Cruise Lines fined $40m for waste dumping after UK tip-off – BBC News 1 December 2016
  7. Environmentally sustainable cruise tourism: a reality check – David Johnson
  8. Alaska environmental regulator cites cruise lines for air pollution violations – TravelMole
  9. National Cruise Tourism Development Strategy 2016-2022

Air pollution from UK shipping is four times higher than previously thought – The Independent 3 Feb 2018

NGO’s Mentioned:

France Nature Environnement 


What do you think?

Written by Trudy Allen

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