Cruise Ships Dumped Over One Billion Gallons Of Sewage Into The Ocean In 2014

Cruise ships released over one billion gallons of sewage into the ocean in 2014, reports environmental group Friends Of The Earth (FOE). Making matters even worse, much of the waste was raw or poorly treated.

Friends of the Earth releases an annual Cruise Ship Report Card to help eco-friendly travelers make informed decisions. The report card typically grades 16 cruise lines on three criteria: Sewage Treatment, Air Pollution Reduction and Water Quality Compliance. However, this year FOE added a fourth category, Transparency, after all 16 cruise lines denied their request for data. FOE was forced to research federal documents to compile the report card this year.

Marcie Keever, Oceans and Vessels Program Director for Friends of the Earth, spoke candidly about the cruise line industry’s lack of transparency,

“By working to stifle the Cruise Ship Report Card, the industry attempted to shield itself from continued scrutiny of its environmental practices, and obscure data from conscientious consumers who would make different choices based on how a cruise ship or line performs on the report card.” Keever continued, “It’s time for the cruise industry to stop trying to hide the dirty ships in its fleet.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a standard cruise ship that holds 3,000 passengers and crew generates 21,000 gallons of sewage per day. That’s enough waste to fill 10 backyard swimming pools in a single week! The grand total comes to over 1 billion gallons of sewage per year for the industry as a whole, but that’s a conservative estimate. Newer ships carry up to 8,000 passengers and crew and FOE’s report card doesn’t account for every cruise line worldwide.

Cruise ships aren’t only using our oceans as a oversized toilet, they’re polluting the air as well. According to the EPA, an average cruise ship at sea belches more sulfur dioxide into the air than 13 million cars per day and more soot than 1 million cars.

While the cruise industry is slowly becoming more eco-friendly, over 40 percent of the 167 ships reviewed continue to rely on antiquated waste treatment technology. These 35 year old systems allow harmful levels of fecal matter, heavy metals, bacteria and other pollutants to enter our oceans.

Keever looks at it this way:

“This is an industry worth billions of dollars that could install the most advanced sewage treatment and air pollution reduction technology available,” said Keever. “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. Unfortunately this year the industry decided to take several steps backwards and refused to respond to our requests for information.”

You can download the report card here to see which cruise lines score the highest and lowest on eco-friendly practices.

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