Environmental Management & Cruise Ships
One of the currently most important topics worldwide is the environment: mankind gradually destroying its natural surroundings at an alarming pace; and what can be done to prevent our environment from meeting its premature fate, which is closely tied to the one mankind will face. Thus protecting the environment means preserving the human race.
As an issue affecting every part of life, it is not surprising that the tourism industry has to deal with effective environmental management as well, considering the best possible practice to balance environmental healthy actions with profit raising. Moreover, as leisure industry tourism is under immense pressure, because it is not considered essential, remaining classified as a luxury good (Hayes, 2004), although most people won’t necessarily agree with this anymore. Nevertheless it therefore provides an easy target for the attacks of environmental activists.
This alone, generating a bad reputation, and not even considering ethical aspects, makes it clear that environmental management in tourism is very important. In the end, breeding cattle or growing rice maybe more devastating for the environment, but plays a rather crucial part in maintaining life. Whereas it seems obvious that for example flying around the globe to a variety of destinations cannot possibly be as essential in retaining life on earth.
Another issue that needs to be taken into consideration is the marvellous marketing effect positive environmental management creates. Most people love doing something good and protective for “their” environment while having a great time being on vacation.
The solution, so it seems, are environment-caring types of holidays. And if the modern forms of spending vacation are harming the environment, why not coming back to more traditional types of holiday? Why not go by ship instead of taking a polluting flight? And why not take the next step, go on a cruise?
After all cruises bear a shiny white image and are widely considered not to be that harmful to the environment as other vacation activities the press is always writing about. But does this mean the environmental impacts of cruise ships are not as negative? Are there any at all?
After researching on the top of environmental management related to cruise ships, some issues appear.
As it is widely acknowledged, carrying enormous amounts of humans generates significant piles of waste with not much space to keep it. And the regulation of waste disposal at sea is limited, partly because the cruise industry is not subject to the same environmental standards as land-based industries and because it is hard to control or enforce. Cruise companies are usually operating global under a flag of convenience, implying that headquarters are situated in a country where regulations and taxes are convenient and not costly (cf. Belize Tourism Industry Association, 2007).
The enduring boom of the industry is a further negative factor regarding the environmental impact of cruises. The more people go on a cruise, the more ships will be sailing on the seven seas generating even more waste, doing more damage.
But thinking about these rather dooming prospects, it seems unlikely that there are no rules.
Indeed, the International Maritime Organisation as part of the United Nations body adopted the International Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) on 2nd November 1973, covering pollution by oil, chemicals, other harmful substances, sewage and garbage. The content has been up-dated in the MARPOL Protocol 1978 and finally entered into force on 2nd October 1983.
The Convention includes regulations “aimed at preventing and minimizing pollution from ships - both accidental pollution and that from routine operations” (IMO, 2002).
Explicitly stated are regulations for the prevention of pollution by oil, for the control of pollution by noxious liquid substances in bulk, for the prevention of pollution by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form as well as regulations about prevention of pollution by sewage and garbage from ships and air pollution from ships. Unfortunately only the first two regulations are mandatory for member states.
(cf. IMO, 2002)
Another influential player in the cruise industry is the International Council of Cruise Lines modifying guidelines for standards and procedures regarding waste management on cruise ships.