Cruise Passengers Demand Cruise Industry to End Dumping of Raw Sewage in the Ocean - Oceana USA

Cruise Passengers Demand Cruise Industry to End Dumping of Raw Sewage in the Ocean

Press Release Date: March 4, 2003

Location: Washington


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: | tel: 954.348.1314


By a three to one margin cruise passengers want the industry to stop dumping human waste into the ocean, according to a new poll released today by Oceana, an international advocacy organization dedicated to restoring and protecting the world’s oceans.

The poll revealed that six out of ten cruise customers are willing to pay a premium to be reassured that raw sewage is never dumped from cruise liners into the ocean. More than 90 percent of this group of cruisers said that they would be willing to pay a premium of more than $25.00, if it meant that cruise lines had adopted sound environmental policies that would help keep the oceans clean. Oceana’s analysis suggests that $25.00 per passenger would be more than enough to cover fleet-wide upgrades to new waste treatment technology.

Cruise ships are exempt from the discharge permitting program of the Clean Water Act, the law that cities and pollution-producing industries must follow. Cruise ships are not required to have permits to dump raw sewage into the ocean and are not required to monitor or report what they release. As a result, neither the government nor the public know how much pollution is released, and there are no means for citizen enforcement.

“Cruise passengers are appalled to learn about this problem and want the cruise industry to take responsibility for ending this needless pollution,” said Jackie Savitz, senior scientist at Oceana. “Sewage dumping is 100 percent preventable with cost effective technology and the cruise industry should be responsive to its customers concerns and keep our oceans healthy and clean.”

An average-sized cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew produces 30,000 gallons of sewage every day and 255,000 gallons of dirty water from shower, sinks, laundries, and dishwashers. This waste not only carries bacteria and viruses that are harmful to human health, but can also sicken and kill marine life, including corals. U.S. law allows cruise ships to dump raw sewage in the ocean once a ship is more than three miles off U.S. shores. Ships can dump treated sewage anywhere in the ocean except in Alaskan waters, where companies must comply with higher state standards.

“This poll indicates that cruise customers’ initially favorable impressions of cruises do not prevent them from being outraged by the industry’s practices that pollute the ocean,” said Alan Quinlan, president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc.

Cruise customers want strong actions taken to reduce ocean pollution. More than 90 percent of those surveyed support a requirement for cruise ships to upgrade their onboard waste treatment facilities to more fully treat sewage before it is released into the sea.

“Oceana calls on cruise ship companies to take responsibility for their passengers’ health and the health of the oceans by upgrading to state-of-the-art sewage treatment technology fleet-wide,” said Ms. Savitz. “New technology is being used effectively, but only on a few ships that cruise in Alaskan waters – the only place the laws require it. But this poll shows that customers want to see all of our oceans protected, not just ocean waters in Alaska.”

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Oceana is a non-profit international advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the world’s oceans through policy advocacy, science, law and public education. Founded in 2001, Oceana’s constituency includes members and activists from more than 150 countries and territories who are committed to saving the world’s marine environment. In 2002, the American Oceans Campaign became part of Oceana’s international effort to protect ocean ecosystems. Oceana, headquartered in Washington, D.C., also maintains regional offices in Alaska, California and New England and is currently establishing offices in Latin America and Europe.

The survey and focus groups were conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc. between November 14 and December 5, 2002. Two focus groups were conducted in Chicago among cruise customers; one group of non-cruise customers and one group of cruise customers were conducted in Philadelphia; and two focus groups with non-cruise customers in Los Angeles. The survey findings, based on a sample size of 633 people who have taken at least one trip on a cruise ship, are subject to a sampling error of 3.8 percent.

Editors Note: Oceana’s report on the poll, Needless Cruise Pollution: Passengers Want Sewage Dumping Stopped can be obtained by going to