Cruise ships are often compared to floating cities and have gained increased popularity in the past few decades. With the cruise industry transporting over 30 million passengers in 2019, the industry is expected to grow with new state-of-the-art ships bringing in more leisure opportunities. However, the environmental impact of the ships and other safety concerns have started raising eyebrows.
Poor Air Quality
The German NGO NABU surveyed 77 cruise ships and found that ships were using toxic heavy oil in their fuel. The data NABU collected also revealed that the air quality for those standing on the deck of a cruise ship is comparable to the world’s most polluted cities. Health experts highlight concerns surrounding poor air quality directly contributing to the shipping industry.
The operators typically use scrubbers who wash off the cheap fuel but end up discharging the pollutants collected directly into the ocean. The waste is sulfurous and it is illegal to dump this anywhere on land, especially anywhere in the EU. This rush to meet environmental standards just means more polluted oceans.
Another growing concern is the dumping of sewage and other such pollutants into the ocean. In 2016, Princess Cruises was fined $40 million for polluting the ocean by dumping 4,227 gallons of oily waste off the coast of Britain.
Health and Environmental Problems
When taking a cruise, a passenger’s carbon footprint triples in size and the emissions produced can contribute to serious health issues. One of the biggest issues with cruise emissions is the levels of nitrogen oxide released which have been linked to acid rain, higher rates of cancer and other forms of respiratory diseases. Idling ships also release potent diesel pollution that is linked to diesel exhaust from automobiles but in much larger quantities. They are laced with harmful heavy metals and can be linked to asthma, cancer, heart disease, and other serious health problems. The ships also pose environmental concerns such as waste disposal, toxic paint, and creating noise that can harm the marine ecosystem.
Protecting the environment and environmental compliance are top priorities. Cruise liners can aim at reducing the waste produced by using new technologies, such as onboard incineration plants, recycling programs, and less polluting fuel options, such as LNG.
Homogenized standards and strict enforcement of international rules can drive in these solutions. Many cruise liners are investing millions of dollars to equip their ships with shore power capabilities and other emerging next-generation technologies that are a pathway to lower emissions and a cleaner environment.