Campaigners with Stand.earth are urging the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to extend its no-sail order for cruise ships beyond the end of September, until the floating resorts and renowned COVID-19 super-spreaders can make good on their duty to protect public health and the environment.
Without a CDC order, “cruise ships will be out spewing deadly pollution, dumping untreated waste, and risking the health of its passengers, crew, communities, and the environment once again,” Stand says on a petition page it circulated earlier this week.
To address their “negative impacts on passengers, crew, communities, and the climate,” Stand adds, cruise lines must commit to a series of measures, including “achieving zero emissions by 2050, immediately switching to the cleanest fuels available, ending the dumping of untreated or poorly treated waste in our oceans, and publicly reporting on their performance. Because without these changes, there is no guarantee for the safety of passengers—especially given the link between climate change and the increased risk of pandemics.”
While Stand’s cruise lines campaign predates the pandemic, originally focusing on the industry’s environmental violations and its impacts on local communities and cultures, the petition site also points to the monumental role of cruise ships in spreading the coronavirus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic really dragged the cruise industry into the harsh light of public scrutiny,” Shipping Campaign Director Kendra Ulrich told The Energy Mix yesterday. “In their response to the pandemic, and continuing to push forward with business as usual, they put the lives of their passengers and crew at unnecessary risk, as well as port communities and all those who may have been exposed as passengers travelled home, all in the interest of their bottom line.”
None of which was any surprise to researchers and campaigners who’d followed the companies’ frequent environmental violations, the “sweatshop-like conditions” for cruise ship workers—or cruise lines’ shift to a climate “solution”, in the form of vessels powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), that produces 70 to 82% more carbon and methane pollution than the least-polluting traditional fuel.
“Those of us who have been watching the industry for a long time noticed that this really is the same morally bankrupt business culture of putting profit before people and the planet that the cruise industry has been engaged in for decades,” Ulrich said. “The difference with COVID-19 is that it was so stark and had such a global impact that the industry couldn’t just ignore it, couldn’t just hide in the shadows of the regulatory grey land in which they’ve been operating.”