Cruise ship discharge assessment report

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Courtesy of US EPA - Environmental Protection Agency

Cruise ships operate in every ocean worldwide, often in pristine coastal waters and sensitive marine ecosystems. Cruise ship operators provide amenities to their passengers that are similar to those of luxury resort hotels, including pools, hair salons, restaurants, and dry cleaners. As a result, cruise ships have the potential to generate wastes similar in volume and character to those generated by hotels.

The cruise industry is one of the world’s fastest growing tourism sectors, with the number of cruise ship passengers growing nearly twice as fast as any other travel sector over the last 10 years (CELB, 2003). In addition, average ship size has been increasing at the rate of roughly 90 feet every five years over the past two decades (Bell, 2007). Larger cruise ships can accommodate even more passengers, as well as the crew necessary to service the passengers and maintain the ships. According to Macleod (2007), the next generation of ships, the first of which will be ready in 2009, will carry more than 8000 passengers. As the cruise industry continues to expand, there is an increasing concern about the impacts cruise ships may have on the marine environment, including water quality and other marine resources.

In March 2000, an environmental advocacy group called the Bluewater Network, representing 53 environmental organizations, submitted a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting that EPA identify and take regulatory action on measures to address pollution by cruise ships. Specifically, the petition requested an in-depth assessment of the volumes and characteristics of cruise ship waste streams; analysis of their potential impact on water quality, the marine environment, and human health; examination of existing federal regulations governing cruise ship waste streams; and formulation of recommendations on how to better control and regulate these waste streams. The petition also included specific requests related to sewage, graywater, oily bilge water, solid wastes, and hazardous wastes, as well as monitoring, record-keeping, and reporting. In addition, the petition requested that EPA prepare a report of the requested assessment. In August 2000, the Bluewater Network submitted an addendum to the petition regarding air pollution from cruise ships. EPA subsequently denied this portion of the petition as unnecessary, in light of the Agency’s pending Clean Air Act actions for marine diesel engines.

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