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The Sludge Booooat… Soon Will Be Making Another Run…

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

If you’re around my age (see: old), then you are probably aware of a TV show called “The Love Boat” that aired on ABC from the late 70’s to the early 80’s.  The campy show glamorized cruises as romantic, adventurous getaways.  Every episode had several story lines, each of which had an uplifting conclusion, with the ship’s crew and a collection of Hollywood B-listers believing they’d helped make the world a better place.

Unfortunately, this is not the case outside of TV Land.  REAL cruises in the REAL world do REAL harm to the ocean.  The average cruise ship carries about 2,500 to 3,000 passengers.  That’s essentially a floating city, and it generates an immense amount of pollutants.  The average one-week cruise produces 210,000 gallons of sewage (10 swimming pools full), one million gallons of grey water (runoff from sinks, baths, showers, laundry, etc.), 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water, 11,550 gallons of sewage sludge, and 130 gallons of hazardous wastes.

Where does all this go?  Well, much of it is dumped right into the ocean, injecting concentrations of bacteria, chlorine, nutrients, metals and other pollutants into sensitive habitat.  This poisons coral reefs, kills marine life and tarnishes beaches, with the nutrients also causing harmful algal blooms that become oceanic dead zones.  Federal law does not address the problem, and state laws vary greatly.  If one state has more stringent laws, cruise operators simply wait to discharge their pollutants until they’re in the waters belonging to a less strict state (or country).

In addition to toxic discharge, cruise lines cause an immense amount of air pollution.  Most use low grade, dirty fuels to propel the ship and to power all on-board systems and amenities, creating emissions full of nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon dioxide and microscopic soot.  These emissions are harmful to human health, cause acid rain and destroy habitat.

Given the disastrous array of environmental harm caused by cruise ships, everyone who cares about the ocean should avoid them at all costs.  Besides, the allusion created by “The Love Boat” just doesn’t hold up.  Do you really want to be trapped with 3,000 other people and limited space?  Cramming all these people together also facilitates the spread of disease – check out this link to see all the norovirus outbreaks on cruises in recent years.

If you must cruise (seriously, do you really need to?), check out the report card issued by the Friends of the Earth to see which cruise lines are least horrible.  Some cruise lines are starting to address their flaws, but the best grade given is a B- (there are plenty of D’s and F’s), so you can see there is still a long way to go.

In closing, it should be noted that the actor who portrayed Gopher on “The Love Boat” later became a four-term Congressman from Iowa.  Though he’s not serving today, I’ve got to believe that even Gopher would have supported stronger environmental laws for cruise ships!

Date Posted: June 3, 2011 @ 6:38 am

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the mention of our report card Ocean Champions!! The 2011 version should be on its way soon!
    Marcie @ Friends of the Earth

    Comment by Marcie — June 9, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

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