Tag Archives: Eco-Tourism

The Unsustainable Cruise Ship Industry


In the days where eco-tourism is gaining fast ground, there are still ways to have a holiday that is highly unsustainable. One of these ways is to take a cruise. More than 230 cruise ships operate worldwide.  The cruise ship industry was called out as the Dinosaur of the Year by the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) which is based in Germany.

According to NABU estimates, a single cruise ship emits particle pollution that equals the amount released by five million cars driving the same distance. NABU also said that the cruise ship industry has made no effort to become more sustainable and they indiscriminately dump waste into the ocean.

The amount of food waste generated by a large cruise ship on a one week voyage is staggering. If a cruise ship has 5,000 people on board, it serves about 25,000 meals each day. The resultant food waste is then ground up and discharged as slurry into the ocean. The EPA reported that food waste that is discharged in this manner lowers oxygen and creates acid causing a nutrient imbalance in ocean waters posing a threat to fragile ecosystems and sea life.

All cruise ships depend on the very ocean that they are polluting for their business and many travel to protected areas with very sensitive ecosystems. In the late 1990s, the Department of Justice indicted three cruise companies for pollution. One of the cruise liners, Royal Caribbean, paid out almost $30.8 million and had to undergo a probationary period. Now however, the federal government has no authority over these ships and Royal Caribbean continues to be one of the worst polluters.

Regulation is needed when it comes to dumping waste as well as implementing on-board comprehensive recycling programs.  Equipping ships with advanced wastewater treatment systems is also imperative but can also be expensive.  Perhaps if the new technology costs were passed on to their customers, it may just be a cost equal to a can of Coke per passenger.

The cruise industry is not dying down anytime soon as it offers one of the most economical options for a holiday; however, for the environment, that is bad news. While many states have no discharge zones near shore, that’s not the case at sea. About the only thing international law prohibits is plastic being discarded into the oceans. Beyond three nautical miles, there are very, very few rules.