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Economic and Social Policies, PUBLICATIONS, Structural and Cohesion Policies

Cruising with a green boat

Millions of travellers take cruise vacations every year. Yet, most travelers don’t realize that taking a cruise is more harmful to the environment and human health than many other forms of travel.

The issue

© Masyanya  / Fotolia

© Masyanya / Fotolia

There are more than 230 cruise ships operating world wide. Cruise ships are literally floating cities that provide some of the same services that small cities or towns provide to their citizens. These vessels can carry as many as 3,000 passengers and crew members, and often operate in pristine coastal waters. As the cruise ship industry continues to expand, there is an increasing concern about the environmental impacts of cruise ship discharges, including impacts to water quality.

Importance of cruise shipping for European tourism

As well as adding significant economic value, cruise tourism can also give rise to unwanted externalities as cruise ships create air emissions, waste and noise in EU ports and seas. The Communication “An integrated Maritime Policy for the European Union” (COM (2007) 575 final) stresses the importance of reconciling economic development, environmental sustainability and quality of life within coastal regions and islands. The Action Plan accompanying the Communication (SEC (2007) 1278) acknowledged the importance of promoting the development of quality coastal tourism and stated that the Commission intended to assess the benefits for ports to invest in infrastructure and facilities for receiving tourists, in particular through cruise tourism. In 2012 the european Commission launched a public consultation: The results of this public consultation will be taken into account in the formulation of the Communication on Challenges and Opportunities for Maritime and Coastal Tourism in Europe.

Cruise ship report

Friends of the Earth, an environmental association, has released their 2012 Cruise-Ship-Report-Card, grading 15 key cruise lines and more than 140 cruise ships for their impact on air and water pollution. The tremendous quantity of food and drink devoured on cruise ships, including water from medical services, laundry, spas, pool, and dry cleaning locations need an outlet. Unfortunately, the sea is the wasteland for the majority of these services. In order to come to a consensus on which cruise lines are the worst offenders, there are three environmental factors considered: water quality fulfillment, pollution diminution, and sewage management.

What do you do with the litter?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a cruise ship with several thousand passengers accumulates over 200,000 gallons of refuse each week. A single cruise ship is equivalent to fifty swimming pools of vastly polluted litter that is discarded into the oceans every week! This occurs because of the systems utilized to rid the ships of passenger’s waste. For instance, at sea whatever is purged from toilets is literally dumped “as is,” into the ocean to infect marine life, as long as the cruise ship is a minimum of three nautical-miles from shore.

Marine life

Specialists assert that over 200 ships around the world present a hazard to marine life with their enormous amounts of waste and sewage including a momentous quantity of dirty water from showers, sinks, laundry, and kitchen use, that is emitted straight into the sea.

More information:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cruise ship discharges

Hazardous Waste Tracking System: A system developed by EPA and the States for assigning one hazardous waste tracking number to each cruise ship that all States would recognize.

Cruise Ship Wastewater Discharges Fact Sheet

Tourist facilities in ports The environment factor (2009): study Commissioned by:

European Commission – Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

Challenges and opportunities for maritime and coastal tourism in Europe: Summary Report of the Online Public Consultation Results

European Cruise Council (ECC):

Contribution of Cruise Tourism to the Economies of Europe

ECC Statement on Blackwater Discharge  01/04/2011

ECC Statement of Commitment on the Environment

About Geert Plas

Polyvalent information specialist at the European Parliament Library



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