Cruise Ships and Pollution

Cruise ships are giant, floating cities, complete with populations of 3,000 or more. This means they have the potential for creating vast amounts of pollution.

International law states that ships within 3 miles of a coastline must obey that country's laws. But once a ship sails out of that radius, it is in international waters.

At this point, many ships dump tons of raw sewage, grey water (i.e. used shower water and other non-toilet water), and trash from the kitchen overboard.

Another cause of pollution comes from the ship's smokestack. Most cruise ships run with diesel engines, which kick out more smoke in a day than 10,000 cars.

Part of the problem is that it's hard for the coast guard to know what cruise ships are doing when they are just out of that limit. Many organizations offer bounties to cruise ship passengers that alert them when they see trash being poured overboard, oil slicks or other discharges while near land. Often the reporting individual gets half of the fine money.

If you're concerned about the environment, then research the cruise line you're interested in and find out what their trash and recycling policy is. Show them that you care about these things. When on board, keep an eye out for any transgressions, and report them if you see them. Certainly some cruise ships are incredibly environmentally conscious - while others are lax. It's only by us cruisers speaking out for a more green industry that change will happen.

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