Cruise ships routinely commit environmental violations

Commercial cruise ships routinely commit social and environmental violations, according to a report out by Oceans Blue Foundation (OCB), which calls for international cruise ship certification to regulate any misconduct.


The report ‘Blowing the whistle’ and the case for cruise ship certification, discusses the need to insist on corporate responsibility within this industry. A source for the report came from Captain James Walsh, former Vice President at Environmental Health and Safety for Carnival Cruise Lines, who helped compile this critique of commercial cruise ships from his first hand experience.

Oceans Blue Foundation says their aim is to articulate the voice of the shareholders and expose how corporate executives are spending their money – “social risks are often linked to financial risks”, says the study.

Infringements on the environment and irresponsible social behaviour have raised concern with groups affected by cruise ship behaviour. The report documents some of these concerns, which include:

  • northern coastal communities eg. In Monterey Bay, California, are concerned about the degradation caused to marine ecosystems;
  • aboriginal communities such as Yakutat in Alaska are demanding recognition of their territorial rights to protect subsistence resources and levy taxes on cruise ships;
  • labour groups such as the International Transport Workers Federation are campaigning to raise consumers’ awareness about cruise labour practices; and
  • Captain James Walsh is now involved in a legal pursuit with Carnival Cruise lines, under the Whistleblowers Act – he claims he was dismissed from his job for helping an official investigation into the environmental and social practices of the company.

Based on such issues, OCB is calling for corporate reform and an environmental legislative regime to be put into action. They say their evidence shows cruise ships risk passenger and crew health, safety and working environment as well as failure to take due care of the environment.

“We have paid the price for our environmental misconduct,” Tim Gallagher from Carnival Cruise Lines told edie. His company was fined nine million dollars by the federal government for negligible environmental practices. He denied that Captain Walsh was fired for helping the authorities with their enquiries, but refused to comment on the reason behind the dismissal.

Oceans Blue Foundation feel mandatory rules and regulations would be advantageous for business, shareholders, workers and the environment. They say such measures would enhance corporate reputation and competitiveness, improve employee recruitment and retention, improve community relations and reduce the risk of adverse publicity, divestment campaigns, and lawsuits.

OCB are currently preparing a second report enhancing on issues raised in this one with further evidence against the cruise industry in an effort “to provide a baseline of performance for the global fleet that can lead to the establishment of a meaningful international certification program”.

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