Cruise ships using Caribbean Sea as dump
"These are floating cities that go back and forth through our waters, dumping toxins from their enormous amount of waste,” says Marcie Keever, director of the Clean Vessels Campaign of Friends of the Earth. According to them, a one week voyage on a cruise ship produces 210,000 gallons of sewage, a million gallons of gray water (runoff from sinks, baths, showers, laundry and galleys), 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water, 11,550 gallons of sewage sludge and more than 130 gallons of hazardous wastes.
The United Nations Environment Programme set up guidelines to protect our ecology, and most of the world has complied, but the Caribbean is holding back. Cruise ships are dumping their waste out in the open sea, because many small islands say they don't have the capacity to handle all the garbage on their shores.
This New York Times article brings to light some of the environmental problems associated with cruise ships, and the footprints they leave.
Many countries with coastlines on the world's most fragile seas abide by a United Nations dumping ban that requires them to treat ship-generated garbage on land. Caribbean islands, however, have yet to adopt the ban, saying they simply don't have the capacity to treat ship garbage on shore. They also fear the ban could push ships to dock in less-regulated ports of call.
"We don't have space to take nothing from nobody," said Travis Johnson, assistant harbour master in Saba, an island of 1,500 people that is building a new pier to accommodate larger cruise ships.
Environmentalists say debris dumped in the ocean can entangle sea creatures, damage water quality and alter ecosystems by providing habitats for opportunistic organisms.
Ignoring the ban also has its consequences for tourism. Some trash dumped in the ocean washes ashore with the winds and currents, fouling the beaches. In the Cayman Islands, the government has traced milk cartons on shore to a passing cruise ship.
The UN and the U.S. Coast Guard have held seminars on six islands over the last couple years to push for a regional approach in the wider Caribbean, which includes the Gulf of Mexico. The officers have stressed how vulnerable their tourism-driven economies are to pollution fouling their coastlines.
But advocates acknowledge it's a tough sell.