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Cruise ships need monitoring beyond ports; environmental group

Last Updated Oct 18, 2019 at 11:33 pm PDT

(Source: Riley Phillips/NEWS 1130)

The Georgia Strait Alliance says Canada needs more regulations to monitor whether sewage is being dumped in the ocean

The Cruise Lines International Association says it prohibits any dumping anywhere in the world

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – With the City of Victoria deciding to limit the number of cruise ships over waste and emissions concerns, the spotlight is on how local governments should require the visiting ships to conform to greener regulations.

But one local environmental group says we should be paying just as much attention to what the ships do between ports-of-call.

This past spring, Carnival Cruises was found to have illegally released half a million gallons of sewage near ports and shores around the world.

“Cruise ships have been caught around the world discharging waste. That’s a real concern about this industry. Nobody is monitoring them to the level they should be. What are they doing when they get out into the open ocean?” asks Christianne Wilhelmson with the Georgia Strait Alliance.

“They can’t just dump raw sewage in the middle of the Strait of Georgia or they will be caught. But once they get up into coastal British Columbia, that’s where want to see more modern reinforcement.”

She says because jurisdictions like Alaska charge cruise ships to discharge their waste water, ships could be tempted to get rid of it before getting to port.

“Remember, they have dry cleaning and photo finishing as part of their waste stream. And that could be ending up in the ocean.”

The Cruise Lines International Association says their Waste Management Policy prohibits the discharge of untreated sewage at sea, “anytime, anywhere, around the globe” and that cruise lines must process “all sewage through treatment systems that meet or exceed international requirements prior to discharge.”

But Wilhelmson says there should be a way to make sure there is compliance.

“One of the things that we really want to see in Canada are more specific regulations with this industry. We have guidelines but they are not as strong as regulations.”

Wilhelmson points out cruise ship emissions are less of a concern for the port of Vancouver, than it is for Victoria, since Vancouver has an electrical grid for ships to plug into – if they have that capability. Port Metro Vancouver says half of visiting ships this year had shore power technology.

Vancouver’s port began offering electrical shore power, which enables ships to turn off their diesel engines, to visiting cruise ships in 2009. Since then, the port says 556 ships have connected to the power grid, saving 6,574 tons of fuel and 20,000 tones of greenhouse gas emission reductions.

The Cruise Lines International Association says it has a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2030. It hopes to see 25 ships powered by liquefied natural gas by 2025.

Victoria city councillors are also concerned about the amount of cruise ship waste ending up in the city’s landfill. In Vancouver, private contractors haul the cruise ship waste to local facilities and are billed according to the Tipping Fee Bylaw.