World Ocean’s Day Rally: Your questions answered

June 24, 2020

On June 8th 2020, alongside with the Clean Up Carnival coalition hosted the first-of-its-kind World Oceans Day Online Rally with speakers from all around the world to e-deliver a petition calling on cruise companies to clean up their act before re-starting the cruise season. Over 300 people joined the rally and hundreds more tuned in through Facebook Live.

We got a lot of great questions that we didn’t get to on the call, so here are answers to some questions we got.

1. Are there any cruise lines that you could recommend? Are there any that are doing ’the right’ things? Fair treatment of employees, sustainable fuels, no dumping, small capacity ships that don’t flood port cities with tourists etc.

There are several small cruise ship companies that have smaller ships and are flagged in European countries. These small companies not only comply with EU environmental and labor standards, but they have taken the initiative to invest in cleaner technologies. Hurtigruten is one cruise line that has been leading the way in sustainable non-fossil fuels and hybrid engine technologies.

2. What are the cleanest available fuels? I don’t want cruise ships switching from heavy fuel oil (HFO) to liquefied natural gas (LNG). Any fossil fuel is going to destroy the climate. We 100% agree that cruise companies should not be switching from heavy fuel oil (HFO) to liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The Clean Up Carnival coalition and are calling on cruise ship companies to do the following:

  • Greenhouse gas reductions: We’re asking cruise companies to publicly commit to absolute greenhouse gas reduction targets, with a minimum of 5% year-over-year reductions.
  • Slow steaming: To realize an immediate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, we are asking that cruise companies publicly commit to and implement a slow-steaming protocol (literally slowing the ships down) across their entire fleets, which will reduce both fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Decarbonization: We’re asking cruise companies to align with the Paris Agreement and exceed the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (e.g. by 80% efficiency target by 2030 and full decarbonisation by 2050), by publicly committing to convert at least 20% of their fleets to zero emissions vessels, running on sustainable fuels such as green hydrogen or ammonia by 2030, as well as a publicly reported pathway to achieve zero emissions across their entire global fleets by 2050 or before.
  • Halt LNG investments: We also demand that cruise companies immediately halt all LNG investments, and redirect those investments towards the research and implementation of zero-emissions propulsion technologies.
  • Shore power: Finally, as they transition their fleets to zero emissions ships, we are asking that cruise companies publicly commit to immediately require all of their vessels to use shore power whenever and wherever shore power is available. We demand that they pay 100% of the costs of new renewable shore power infrastructure in all ports of call that don’t have shore power by 2030 (i.e. that they do not ask, solicit or lobby for taxpayer subsidies).

3. You say you want cruise companies to “Publicly commit to create an equitable and responsible system of leisure travel that optimizes the economic advantages while eliminating the negative social, public health and environmental impacts of cruising on port communities.” Can you unpack what this demand actually means? Is it another way of saying that ships need to get smaller and there need to be fewer ships?

This demand refers to a broader platform of changes that communities with cruise ports are working to develop called “Principles of Responsible Cruise Tourism.” The platform currently has six legs:

  1. Port Community Self-Determination
  2. Port Community Economy
  3. Port Community Culture
  4. Labor
  5. Environment
  6. Public Health

Some port communities around the world have turned away cruise ships, have denied entry to cruise ships, are limiting the size and number of ships, and are limiting the number of passengers that can disembark.

4. Regarding the Stand-sponsored research of taking air samples on cruise ships, did the ships where the samples were taken employ scrubbers? I’m asking because the Port of Seattle claims that concerns about the health impacts of air pollution from the ships are misguided, since the ships here use scrubbers. I’d like confirmation that scrubbers do not mean that all health impacts of exhaust pollutants are addressed.

Dr. Ryan Kennedy, a faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, designed the study methodology and conducted the air pollution research that measured the quantity of particulate matter on the decks of Carnival Corporation subsidiary cruise ships.

All of the ships in the study had exhaust gas cleaning systems (ECGS, or scrubbers) installed. Based on the results of the study, this indicates that this so-called pollution control technology — which is designed for the sole purpose of reducing sulfur air emissions — does not provide significant reductions in dangerous ultrafine and nano-particulate pollution. Dr. Kennedy’s research found that the air quality on cruise ships can be as bad, or many times times worse, than a bad day in some of the world’s most polluted cities, including Beijing, China.

5. In my view, the true objective here should be to dismantle the cruise ship industry itself. Anything less than that is not going to appreciably reduce pollution or, for that matter, shift anything positive in our direction. What is your stance on abolishing the cruise industry?

There is no global mechanism to abolish cruise ships in the near term. But there are ways and opportunities to motivate the cruise industry to act responsibly right now, while we build the power to legislate the changes needed at the local, state, national, and international levels.

Rather than focus on what may divide us, our aim is to move forward together on what we agree on. We choose to focus on what we have in common: we all oppose cruise ship pollution. We choose to focus on organizing, building power, and sharing information and resources. Our focus is on building a “big tent” coalition. For years, even decades, activists have addressed issues locally, without coordination and the power that comes from networking, learning from each other, and acting with unified messages, when the time is right. The time is right, right now.

Some cruise port communities advocate degrowth and abolition — an end to the cruise industry. Others call for reform — for cruise ships to act more responsibly — either because their community depends on cruise ship revenue, or because they believe a nearer-term goal is more strategic or politically pragmatic as we build the power to make bigger changes.

Cruise port communities have the right to self-determination and can make the choice to ban cruise ships. We respect that right and support port communities who are organizing to ban cruise ships. Many in our communities would welcome a global ban. Many would not. But we all want clean air, clean water, and resilient communities. We all want to stop climate change and protect wildlife. We are all aligned around broad values of health, safety, security, conservation, and equity. We all think globally, and act locally.

6. Do you have any fact sheets or a list of resources about cruise ship pollution that we can share?

Yes. Here are a few resources:

Transport & Environment:

Pacific Environment: