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Cruise ships should not dump raw waste

Planet Ark

6th March 2003

MIAMI - Nearly three-quarters of American cruise ship passengers say raw sewage should not be dumped anywhere in the ocean and a majority would pay more to help big cruise companies improve onboard waste treatment, according to a poll released.

The survey was commissioned by the Washington-based environmental group Oceana, which called on the cruise industry to stop all dumping of untreated sewage in the ocean and to upgrade onboard waste treatment systems.
"I don't think I'd want to swim anywhere near a cruise ship," said Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana's pollution campaign director.

Major cruise lines, including No. 1 industry player Carnival Corp (CCL.N) and No. 2 Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL.N), have paid tens of millions of dollars in fines over the past several years to settle ocean pollution charges.

The International Council of Cruise Lines, the industry's trade group, said cruise lines have come a long way in treating sewage.

"By and large, cruise lines do treat their waste. The cruise industry has cutting-edge wastewater treatment systems on board," ICCL president Michael Crye said.

Crye said ICCL members established a policy not to discharge anything from ships within four miles (6.4 km) of shore and each cruise ship must have an operable, approved marine sanitation device. He said he did not know if any cruise lines still dump untreated sewage at sea.

At a Miami Beach news conference across the road from the convention center where industry executives are holding their annual Seatrade meeting, Oceana said the poll indicated cruise passengers were appalled to learn that cruise ships can legally dump untreated waste into the ocean.

Seventy-two percent said raw sewage should not be dumped anywhere in the ocean while 25 percent said it would be OK to dump treated sewage far enough from shore that it would not impact local areas, according to the survey of 633 U.S. cruise passengers conducted by the Washington-based Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc.

The poll was conducted from Dec. 2-5 and has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

By law, ships are allowed to dump untreated sewage in the ocean more than three miles (4.8 km) from shore and can dump treated sewage water anywhere, with the exception of Alaska, which has tougher laws, the group said.

"The good news is that sewage dumping is 100 percent preventable," Savitz said. "Cost effective technology exists. The passengers want to see it installed and used."

Although raw sewage is known to cause human health problems, coral diseases and other marine damage, Oceana conceded that the causes of ocean pollution are complex and that no scientific evidence existed to prove that cruise ship pollution did any direct damage.

Story by Jim Loney