Cruise ship industry

Impacts underestimated - benefits overblown
March 18, 2003

HALIFAX - With double digit growth anticipated for the cruise ship industry, ports in the Maritimes need to assess the economic, environmental and social impacts of cruise ships, according to a report released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Ross Klein, the author of "Cruising - Out of Control: The Cruise Industry, The Environment, Workers and the Maritimes," finds that "ports too often see the cruise ship industry as a "cash cow" with much money to be made with very little cost. The facts are somewhat different - ports often find that the income expectations are overblown and the costs of hosting a cruise ship are under-stated."

Many of the anticipated economic benefits don not pan out for communities. Cruise lines skim off some of the profit associated with on-shore excursions and charge onshore merchants fees to be included on the in "approved vendors" lists. There are also economic costs associated with tens of thousands of passengers passing through port communities.

Klein, a veteran of 30 cruises and a social work professor at Memorial University in St. John's, notes that the costs are not just financial. "An assessment of the industry also needs to take into account the impact of ship emissions on the environment, the social impact of the cruise industry on local communities, and the working conditions on ships."

A ship, according to the report, produces among other emissions, 10 gallons of sewage and 3.5 kilos of solid waste per passenger per day, and air emissions equal to 12,240 automobiles. The report shows that other jurisdictions in North America have found voluntary regulation of emissions advocated by the industry, and currently being planned by the Canadian government, have resulted in numerous spills in ports and even in national marine reserves.

The federal government will be releasing environmental guidelines in April. According to Klein, "these regulations need to be stronger and made enforceable. There should be opportunities for public comment and input into the development of the regulations." The report calls for regulations that are legally enforceable through regular monitoring and significant penalties for non-compliance.

The report finds that the working conditions on board are similar to those of sweatshops: the norm among service workers is to work an 80 hour week and half of the crew earn less than US$1000 a month.

The report includes recommendations that support the development of the industry while minimizing the negative impacts.