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US Congress Aims to Clean Up Cruise Industry’s Act

US Congress Aims to Clean Up Cruise Industry’s Act

On Oct 21, 2009, the Clean Cruise Ship Act of 2009 (S. 1820) – which would ban the release of raw, untreated sewage in U.S. waters, including the Great Lakes – was introduced in the US Senate by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Nearly identical legislation was introduced in the House by Representative Sam Farr (D-CA).

Currently, cruise ships are allowed to discharge waste three nautical miles from shore. The Clean Cruise Ship Act would establish a no-dumping zone in waters within 12 nautical miles of U.S. shores and strengthen standards for treatment of waste outside of this zone.  The bill would also establish an onboard monitoring program to ensure that ships comply with the law.

Three good reasons for the cruise industry to wake up and smell the waste -

A) Sen. Durbin is the Assistant Senate Majority Leader – effectively the no. 2 in the Senate, and he represents Illinois and has excellent relations with President Obama.

B) Rep. Sam Farr is co-chair of the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus – which basically means the guy who’s supposed to be protecting your interests is pulling the rug out from under you.


C) The issue is too big to be left alone - the U.S. is close to hitting ten million annual cruise passengers. The average cruise ship produces over 1.2 million gallons of wastewater every week, and there are more than 230 cruise ships operating around the world, generating millions of gallons of wastewater daily.

A single ship can produce over 200,000 gallons of human sewage; one million gallons of graywater from kitchens, laundry and showers; more than 10,000 gallons of sewage sludge; more than 130 gallons of hazardous waste and over 25,000 gallons of oily bilge water that collects in ship bottoms.

Sen. Durbin had put up the same bill in 2008, but the Senate apparently had better things to do at that time. While introducing the bill, he explained why he feels strongly about this - ” Under the current system, these ships can directly dump their waste into our oceans and the Great Lakes with minimal oversight.  Vacation cruises can be a wonderful way to see the world, but we cannot afford to leave the destruction of the oceans in the wake of these ships.”

Sen. Durbin’s legislation is supported by environmental groups including Friends of the Earth; Earthjustice; Oceana; Surfrider; Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters; and Northwest Environmental Advocates.

Neesha Kulkarni, Legislative Associate at Friends of the Earth, added that “Advanced technology is available to treat this waste, but the cruise industry has failed to install this equipment on a majority of its ships.”

And Rep. Farr chimed in with his own recriminations – “Big cruise ships make for big pollution; it’s an unavoidable truth. Unfortunately, responsible disposal of that waste hasn’t always been a given. The cruise ship industry is way overdue to take responsibility for its actions.”

The US House has also approved legislation requiring cruise lines to improve their passenger safety record, with new and stringent requirements related to crime prevention and reporting. This bill (HR 3619) is also now heading for the Senate for approval.

In short, it’s time for the cruise industry to clean up it’s act, or Congress is quite willing – and likely, to do it for them.

Photo by ccgd