Has the harm caused by cruise liners been overlooked?

By Patrick Farrell

New research shows that while cruising is becoming a popular option for vacationers across the globe, cruise liners may have detrimental effects on the environment.

Data compiled by Friends of Earth, the U.S. branch of Friends of Earth International, shows that while some cruise lines have done their part do reduce waste and air pollution, other ships are continuing to pollute the oceans.

In what the organization named the “2012 Cruise Ship Report Card,” the data shows the environmental impacts of various cruise lines in respect to sewage treatment, air pollution reduction, and water quality compliance.

Sewage treatment grades were compiled by looking at the total number of ships in each company’s fleet that currently utilize advanced sewage treatment methods.

Cruise lines that plug into “onshore power hookups” when docked at ports received higher grades on air pollution reduction.

The statistic for water quality complacency is in response to waste disposal standards in Alaska, where many cruise lines now offer cruising options. Due to Alaska’s high water quality standards, ships are asked to deal with onboard waste in unrestricted areas.

By compiling these three different categories, Friends of Earth issued each cruise line, and ship, a letter grade from A to F.

Disney Cruise Line received the highest overall grade at A-, while Princess Cruises, Holland America, and Norwegian Cruise Line grades ranked B+, B-, and B-, respectively.

Coasta Cruises, Crystal Cruises, and P&O Cruises all received failing grades in the report.

According to the United States Environmental Protection agency, waste streams produced by cruise ships include water collected in the ships hull containing grease, oil, and other contaminates, as well as sewage water, contaminated water from showers, laundries and kitchens, and solid waste.

The agency reports, “There is a significant concern about the potential environmental impacts of these waste stream discharges.”

In the past, much media controversy has arisen over the outbreaks of illnesses on commercial cruise liners.

In past research, the Friends of Earth note that the U.S. Center for Disease Control documented 22 serious illness outbreaks on cruise ships from 2002 to 2011.

In the first eight months of 2012, nine cases have already been reported.