While many cruise lines are adopting more eco-friendly measures and outfitting new and older ships with advanced technology to reduce vessels' environmental footprints, more needs to be done, according to a report released Wednesday.
Some operators continue to lag in reducing air and water pollution in the destinations their ships visit or where they are based, the Friends of the Earth 2013 Cruise Ship Report Card showed.
The advocacy group said cruise ships dumped more than 1 billion gallons of sewage in the ocean, much of it raw or poorly treated, according to its analysis of federal data.
In the report, 162 ships operated by 16 cruise lines were graded on three environmental factors: sewage treatment, air pollution reduction and water quality compliance.
While some lines are getting greener, more than 40 percent of their ships still rely on 30-year-old waste-treatment technology, leaving treated sewage with harmful levels of fecal matter, bacteria, heavy metals and other contaminants, the advocacy group said.
"It's time for cruise ships to stop using our oceans as a toilet," said Marcie Keever, Friends of the Earth oceans and vessels project director and report card author. "We're encouraged that some cruise lines are taking incremental steps to improve their performance, but the entire industry must stop hiding behind weak regulations and take action to make sure the oceans remain as clean as in the photos in cruise brochures."
While six cruise lines received A's for sewage treatment, only Disney Cruise Line received an A grade for its overall efforts in the three areas analyzed in the report. The others received final grades ranging from B's to F's.
Of the operators that sail from South Florida, Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises scored a final B grade, while Carnival Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean International scored C-minus and C, respectively.
Norwegian's new cruise ship Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Bliss, scheduled for delivery in 2015 and 2017, will be the first new-built industry vessels to feature innovative scrubber technology from Green Tech Marine that's designed to reduce sulfur emissions, the cruise line said.
In a statement Wednesday, the Cruise Lines International Association, which represents many of the operators graded in the report, said its members continue to invest extensively in a wide range of innovative environmental solutions that reduce air pollution and emissions as well as treat sewage prior to discharge. "Our industry in many areas employs practices and procedures that are substantially more protective of the environment than are required by regulation."
For the full report, go to foe.org/cruise-report-card.
By Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel
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