Cruising is a great way to holiday, but is it great for our environment? Earlier this month, the New South Wales parliament released a consultation draft of new regulations which will help to ensure that Australia's oceans and air are protected for the next generation of cruisers to enjoy.
The regulations, which are open to submissions until Monday the 15th of June, will help to minimise any effects from the growing cruise market which has meant more ships are now sailing Australian waters. They will make it a fineable offense for ships docking in New South Wales ports to use any fuel other than the more environmentally-friendly low sulphur fuel during berthing operations. Fines can be given to both Owners and Masters and will reach well into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Applicable in Sydney Harbour from October 1st 2015 and in all other New South Wales ports from July 1st 2016 if passed, the new regulations are intended to respond to concerns from residents near White Bay in regards to pollution.
The environmental effects of any type of shipping can be cause for concern where there are no regulations to limit emissions and waste products. Cruise ships are part of this category, generating a lot of waste including bilge water, grey water, solid waste and sewage. However, the cruise industry is largely on board with taking steps to ensure the oceans stay pristine - after all, beautiful and untouched destinations are a part of the product they sell. The Cruise Lines International Association is at the forefront of developing new ways to reduce the impact of cruise ships in the beautiful oceans they frequent.
Do you want to choose a greener cruise? Friends of the Earth, an independent non-profit organisation, released a cruise report card in 2013 which ranked the biggest players in the cruise industry according to their environmental footprints. It is good to see some of Australia's favourite lines including Princess and Carnival near the top. In 2014, the lines refused requests for information, with the CLIA stating that it "does not advance the public's understanding in a meaningful or objective manner." The organisation marked all an "F" for transparency, whilst still making their best attempt to rank them with information available - Holland America came out on top.
What is being done?
There are some great initiatives in the industry to improve sustainability and eco-friendly cruising. Here are a few:
- In 2007, Norwegian Cruise Lines began a big push in regards to recycling, going as far as recycling used cooking oil and donating it to organic farmers who converted it into bio-diesel. The company has in the past been selected by Conde Nast as a leader in social responsibility, awarded the William M. Benkert Marine Environmental Protection Award by the U.S Coast Guard, and been awarded the Cruise Ship Environmental Award by the Port of San Francisco multiple times.
- Carnival has implemented a range of eco-friendly practices across its large fleet, from using better detergents to developing "scrubber" technology which cleans gas exhausts. Did you know that the Carnival Spirit is equipped with a scientific data-gathering device which monitors ocean water quality for environmental groups, government agencies and universities?
- Holland America and Princess both plug into and buy shore power when in port to reduce emissions from engines and generators.
- Many lines are now equipped with advanced wastewater and bilge water treatment systems - Holland America, Royal Caribbean and others use these to minimise impact.
- Holland America ships all sail with an Environmental Officer who reports directly to the captain. The officer is in charge of educating the crew about best practices, encouraging guests to minimise their power usage and waste, and ensuring that the ship complies with the line's stringent environmental standards.
- Celebrity Cruises has installed 216 solar panels on the Celebrity Solstice which help to power the LED lighting and the elevators, and has a range of other small practices keeping her eco-friendly, like chilled river rocks on the buffet rather than ice for more efficient use of energy. This puts the Solstice at the forefront of eco-friendly cruise ships - and she sails from Australia!
Australian cruisers are lucky to have so many fantastic destinations available to them - the South Pacific, Australasia and beyond. It's important to preserve them for the next generations, and we look forward to continued and effective development on environmentally friendly practices from cruise lines around the globe.