Anne Majumdar

The cruise sector is once again under fire over pollution, but operators insist they are working hard to ensure the mode of travel is environmentally sustainable.

A new report released earlier this month found that cruise lines had done little to reduce pollution over the last year with some producing as much particle pollution as one million cars per day.

Carried out by German environment group Nabu, the study found that none of the 63 ships had significantly reduced its environmental impact over the course of last year.

German operators Hapag-Lloyd and TUI were highlighted as the only ones to have acted on the issue over the past year, having installed nitrogen oxide catalysts.

Meanwhile, popular brands including Costa, MSC, Royal Caribbean and Cunard all received fail grades.

Thumbs Down Pixabay KArryOn

“No company comes recommended in Nabu’s 2017 cruise ship rankings, which show just how little progress companies have made towards cutting pollution,” the group said in a statement.

“The cruise industry’s contempt for the health of its customers and port citizens is underlined by the fact that not one company responded to a simple Q&A supplied by Nabu.”

It’s not the only scathing report to have come to light this year.

In July, an investigation by the UK’s Channel 4 found that air pollution on some ships is double that of central London, with exhaust fumes bellowed out at sea not subject to the same regulations as emissions on land.

The ultrafine particles produced are considered particularly damaging to human health because they are small enough to cross the membranes in our lungs, respiration biologist Matt Loxham told the channel’s Dispatches program.

But Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia managing director Joel Katz insisted cruise is leading the shipping sector in devising “responsible environmental practices” and “innovative technologies” to tackle emissions and waste.

CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz

CLIA Australasia managing director Joel Katz

“At CLIA, we take our environmental commitment very seriously and will continue to focus on improvement in this area as a priority across the sector,” he told KarryOn.

“CLIA member cruise lines strive to ensure that each new generation of ships is more eco-friendly than the previous one and our members are committed to fitting existing ships with the latest technology as part of continued improvements across the industry.”

Katz highlighted new technologies implemented by cruise lines over the last decade such as the adoption of cleaner fuels and advanced engine technology, exhaust gas cleaning systems and wastewater discharge policies as major strides.

Cruise giant Carnival Corporation released its 2016 sustainability report this week, claiming that it demonstrates “tangible strides” towards achieving its 2020 sustainability performance goals.

Majestic Princess

It also said it was “ahead of schedule” in achieving a nearly 25% reduction in CO2 emissions relative to the 2005 baseline and that it is “on track” to hitting its additional sustainability goals over the next three years.

“We all understand a healthy environment is not just an operating necessity, but it is also the right thing to do,” chief maritime officer Bill Burke said.

However, in December last year, Carnival was ordered to submit 78 cruise ships across its eight brands to a five-year environmental compliance program with Princess Cruise Lines ordered to pay a US$40 million penalty for using a “magic pipe” to disperse oily waste into the ocean.

Friends of the Earth’s 2016 Cruise Ship Report Card acknowledged some recent improvements had been made but that failings were rife. It highlighted lack of transparency as a particular cause for concern.

“Despite its PR blitz regarding installation of new pollution reduction technology, the cruise industry continues to get an “F” for transparency, and many are failing when it comes to air or water pollution or both,” oceans and vessels program director Marcie Keever said.

“The industry continues its greenwashing to try and hide its dirty practices from the public.”

READ: All hail! Cunard is building a 4th Queen

READ: Azamara buys a ship from its rivals at Carnival Corporation

Are you concerned about the impact of cruising on the environment? And are cruise lines doing enough to do their bit?