September 17, 2009 in City

Group grades cruise pollution

Environmentalists’ rankings called arbitrary, flawed
Mary Pemberton Associated Press
File Associated Press photo

In this 2003 photo, Holland America Line’s cruise ship MS Norwegian Ski, at right, leaves Juneau, Alaska, as the company’s other ship, the MS Rotterdam, sits at the dock. The environmental group Friends of the Earth gave Holland America Line its highest mark on its cruise ship report card.
(Full-size photo)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – An environmental group released its report card Wednesday on how well cruise ship companies operating in American waters are doing to reduce pollution, and not one received an overall grade of A.

Friends of the Earth graded 10 major cruise ship lines, including some of the biggest names in the business, such as Carnival Cruise Lines. Carnival received a D-minus.

The report issued the highest grade – a B – to Holland America Line. Norwegian Cruise Lines and Princess Cruises also scored relatively well, each getting a B-minus.

The lowest grades – F’s – went to Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International. Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises also scored poorly.

“Typically, cruise ship passengers are attracted to cruise vacations with pictures of pristine waters and promises of unspoiled scenery and abundant wildlife, but these passengers are never told that their vacations could leave a dirty mark on the places they visit,” said Marcie Keever, who spearheaded the Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card.

Cruise Lines International Association, a group representing 24 cruise lines, castigated the report, calling it arbitrary, flawed and ignoring “the fact that our cruise lines comply with and in most cases exceed all applicable environmental regulations.”

“It is regrettable that Friends of the Earth authors such misinformation when in fact this industry has made tremendous progress in the past several years in advancing technology and developing programs that go a long way in protecting the environment,” the association said in a statement.

Friends of the Earth graded the cruise lines on three categories: sewage treatment, air pollution reduction and water quality compliance in Alaska waters. It also issued a simple pass/fail grade for each line’s accessibility to environmental information.

Alaska and California have taken the strongest stance nationally against cruise ship pollution, the group said.

Keever said some of the cruise lines have been working to make ships less polluting, especially in the area of sewage treatment. Holland America, Norwegian, Cunard Cruise Line and Celebrity received high marks for having advanced sewage treatment aboard their ships.

Carnival and Disney received F’s for sewage treatment.

Disney, with two ships and two under construction, could score better on sewage treatment next year because it has promised to make upgrades on all its ships, Keever said.

In 2008, 12 of the 20 ships allowed to discharge in Alaska waters received violations, mostly for ammonia and heavy metals, Keever said. The fact that eight ships had no violations shows it can be done, she said.

The 10 cruise lines received lower grades for reducing air pollution. Seven out of the 10 cruise lines received F’s.

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