Grades are in and several cruise ship lines that homeport in Seattle—including Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean Int’l and Carnival Cruise Lines — didn’t even make Cs in sustainability, according to an environmental group rating the cruise ship companies.
Friends of the Earth, a national San Francisco-based environmental organization, released its Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card suggesting several cruise lines have a sub-par commitment to ocean water and air quality.
Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) maintains the report card — which graded 13 companies on their sewage treatment systems, their efforts to reduce air pollution, their compliance with state water laws and accessibility of their environmental information — casts an unfair light on the industry.
“For the second year in a row, we’ve found that cruise lines are doing less than they can to limit the environmental impacts of their ships,” FOE's Clean Vessels Campaign director Marcie Keever, said Wednesday in a press release. “From ending the use of dirty fuel that pollutes the air to stopping the disgusting practice of dumping sewage and other waste into the sea, it’s time for the cruise industry to clean up its act.”
In a statement Tuesday, Florida-based CLIA defended its member companies:
“It is unfortunate that instead of contributing to a meaningful scientific dialogue about protecting our oceans, FOE continues to use innuendo and misstate the facts to advance its agenda,” the association said. “This ‘report card’ is not based on science, law, or the facts, and like its last one, is rooted in FOE’s own arbitrary and flawed criteria.”
The worst environmental offender this year, FOE reports, is Crystal Cruises, a 22-year-old company which wasn't on the first report card issued in 2009. Crystal received an overall grade of an F, scoring low in environmental impact categories across the board.
FOE recognized Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Lines — two lines that send vessels to Seattle — as the cruise lines most attentive to environmental standards. Both companies earned a B- for their overall sustainability grades.
Norwegian said earlier this month that it would refrain from discharging treated wastewater while at Pier 66 in Elliot Bay, a practice that all other cruise ships docking in Seattle had already quit in 2009. The move came after pressure from several environmental groups, including FOE, which urged Norwegian to revise its discharge practices.
While Holland America tied Norwegian for first place in sustainable practices, they didn’t set any personal records in 2010. Because of lower marks in the sewage treatment category, the company’s score slid from the B it received last year.
According to Keever, Holland America's grade dropped because FOE discovered this year that three of the line's vessels–including the ms Amsterdam, which docks in Seattle every two weeks until late September–lack advanced wastewater treatment systems. Without newer wastewater treatment devices, Keever told InestigateWest Friday, cruise ships release ammonia and other toxins harmful to marine life and to humans. "It really does make a big difference in terms of [a ship's] pollution, Keever said of the sewage devices cruise vessels use. "With older technologies, they're releasing all the things that make animals and people sick."
Princess Cruises, which docks at Seattle’s Pier 91 Smith Cove Cruise Terminal also saw its grade drop, from a B- to a C+, in 2010. According to the FOE release, several documented instances of the line's vessels violating Alaska’s water pollution laws in 2009 hurt Princess’ grade.
This year’s most improved award goes to Disney Cruise Line, which rose from an F in 2009 a to a C- in 2010. Disney scored higher this year, FOE said, because the line installed an advanced wastewater treatment system.
Keever said she hopes FOE's assessment will encourage more lines to make sustainable upgrades to their vessels and increase the transparency of their environmental practices. "We haven't seen that much of a change in [information] accessibility from last year," she noted. According to Sarah Scoltock, Holland America's Public Relations manager, the company plans to publish a Corporate Sustainability Report this summer detailing its environmental improvements and other sustainable business practices. FOE plans to evaluate more cruise ship companies for next year's report card, Keever said.