The California Senate Environmental Quality Committee passed three bills on Monday, July 7 that would ban cruise ships from dumping wastes into California waters and four National Marine Sanctuaries. The bills were authored by Assemblymen Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and George Nakano (D-Torrance).
Tim Eichenberg, in Oceana’s San Francisco office, praised the action of the Committee. “Although cruise ships generate the wastes of small cities, they are exempt from many of the same clean water laws that apply to cities and industries. The cruise ship industry is making billions of dollars taking people to some of the ocean’s most important and sensitive waters. We hope that these bills will be enacted and signed into law to ensure that, at least in California, the industry will not spoil these areas for everyone else.”
Cruise companies made $13 billion in sales in 2002, and California is the nation’s second largest market with 280 visits carrying 650,000 passengers. A 25 percent increase in traffic is expected in the state during the next ten years. Each cruise ship can generate daily up to 30,000 gallons of sewage; 255,000 gallons of graywater from sinks, galleys and laundries; 37,000 gallons of oil bilge water; 15 gallons of toxic chemicals from photo labs and dry cleaning; hundreds of thousands of gallons of ballast water containing invasive species and diseases; seven tons of garbage and solid waste; and the air pollution equivalent of 12,000 cars.
Cruise ship sewage is exempt from the Clean Water Act’s permitting, monitoring and reporting requirements and graywater from sinks, galleys and laundries can be discharged without treatment. All cruise ships operating in California waters are also foreign-flagged which avoids U.S. income and corporate taxes, and labor laws. Several cruise lines were fined for violating California’s ballast water management law, and outright banned from some state waters. Nationally the industry has paid more than $60 million in fines and penalties during the past decade for violating state and federal laws and regulations.
In addition to banning dumping of wastes in state waters, the bills also direct the state to petition the federal government to ban dumping in California’s four National Marine Sanctuaries (Channel Islands, Monterey, Cordell Banks and Gulf of the Farallones). They also ban the incineration of wastes within 20 miles of shore, and require cruise ships to use low sulfur diesel fuel within 25 miles of shore. The bills now go to the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate floor where they must be approved before September 12.
“Without laws like this, cruise companies like Royal Caribbean will continue to exploit loopholes to pollute our oceans,” said Jackie Savitz, Oceana’s pollution program director. “In the meantime, their customers and others who care about our oceans are appalled and may be considering other vacation options.”
Oceana is a non-profit international advocacy organization dedicated to restoring and protecting 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. Oceana, headquartered in Washington, D.C., has additional offices in key U.S. coastal areas, a South American office in Santiago, Chile, and will open a European office in fall of 2003. For more information, please visit www.Oceana.org