Blog | Oceana USA

Oceana's victory in getting Royal Caribbean Cruises to adopt advanced wastewater treatment technology fleetwide is a tremendous step, but it is not the final solution to the problem of cruise ship pollution.  The industry is still growing.  The number of passengers that travel each year is increasing bringing with it more and more pollution, and cruise terminals are being developed in more and more cities throughout the country.  Cruise ships are no longer limited to Florida and Alaska, but headed to places like Norfolk, VA, and Gloucester, MA.

Because of this, it is not enough for one company to adopt advanced wastewater treatment technology.  Legislation is needed to combat this problem, and the Clean Cruise Ships Act of 2004 (PDF fact sheet) which has been introduced by Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Farr (D-CA) would be the way to do it.  

This bill would:

  • prohibit the discharge of sewage, graywater and oily bilge water within twelve miles of the coast;
  • set standards for the treatment of sewage and graywater that can be released once they are outside of twelve miles;
  • ensure illegal discharges do not continue by requiring better inspection and monitoring.

It is important that we continue working to clean up our oceans and generate support for this bill.  Please contact your Members of Congress and ask them to support this legislation!

[editor's note, by Jason] (This post is by Andy Sharpless, Oceana's CEO.)

Eleven hard months of campaigning against Royal Caribbean. Oceana's demand was simple: stop dumping untreated and poorly treated sewage into our oceans! The company knew that technology existed to treat their waste water -- indeed it had installed this equipment on three of its 28 ships. We called on them to commit to cleaning up their entire fleet.

Two days ago, on Monday morning, I received a Fed Ex letter from Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean, committing to installing advanced wastewater treatment equipment on the entire fleet, to audit its performance and to publicly disclose the results of those audits. (You can read the letter by following the link above.)

While the company doesn't want to give Oceana credit for this decision, we're sure that our months of flying banners behind airplanes, recruiting almost 90,000 people to pledge not to take a cruise, leafletting passengers onboard ships in the middle of the night, and holding rallies in ports in both the Atlantic and the Pacific were key drivers of their decision. And we commend them for it! Mr. Fain and the company are doing the right thing, and the oceans will be cleaner as a result. They are the second largest cruise ship operator, and their example will reverberate through the industry for the benefit of our oceans and our beaches.

We are also continuing the fight for clean oceans by working hard for passage of the Clean Cruise Ship Act of 2004, which is federal legislation that would make sure all cruise companies using American ports meet the standard we fought to make Royal Caribbean meet. This is a good day for everyone who cares about the future of our oceans, and who is working to prevent the irreversible collapse of our ocean wildlife.

Last Tuesday the EPA announced its commitment to making the nation's beaches clean and safe for swimmers. The "new" plan basically entails enforcing laws and programs already on the books - programs, I might add, that Congress and the Administration have thus far neglected to adequately fund. When it passed the B.E.A.C.H. Act in 2000, Congress authorized $30 million for beach programs and grants. This administration has never asked for more than $10 million, and despite the new promise to ramp up attention to beach water quality it hasn't proposed any funding increase in the FY 05 budget.

The EPA is flexing its muscles and threatening to step in to set water safety standards for states that don't comply with B.E.A.C.H. Act rules, as it should, but with only one third of the money they need for testing and monitoring, beach states are in a tough place. If the Administration is serious about cleaning up beach water it should fully fund the B.E.A.C.H. Act for 2005 and strengthen - not weaken - pollution control measures that tackle the problem at its source.

For more info about beaches visit Oceana's nifty Beach Alert System and check out our April 9 press release on beach states' failure to meet a B.E.A.C.H. Act water safety deadline.