Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Seattle's Cruise Ship's Economic Windfall Environmental Downfall

When I moved from the Seattle zone, in 1998, I don't believe any cruise ships called Seattle home.

That is no longer the case. I remember returning to Seattle a few years ago and seeing one of the cruise ships on Elliott Bay for the first time. The ferry boats are big. The cruise ships dwarf the ferry boats.

The biggest cruise ship to dock in Seattle is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines. The ship is called Carnival Spirit. It is 13 decks tall, has 16 lounges and bars, 3 restaurants and 4 swimming pools, one with a water slide, for the 2,124 passengers on board.

Seattle's Alaska bound cruise ships bring around 900,000 tourists to Seattle annually.

I spent a day in Seattle, Thursday, August 7, 2008. Seattle has always had a lot of tourists on any summer day, but now, 10 years after I moved away, it had noticeably hugely increased. I assume a part of that increase is the docked cruise ships.

Obviously having the cruise ships in town has generated a lot of money.

But, apparently there is a downside, an environmental downside. The EPA estimates that on a single day a typical cruise ship generates 21,000 gallons of sewage, 1 ton of garbage, 170,000 of wastewater and up to 6,400 gallons of oily bilge water.

Cruise ships dump incinerator ash and sewage sludge into the ocean. It is legal to dump untreated sewage if you are more than 3 miles from shore.

Canada, with its penchant for dumping untreated sewage into pristine water, like Victoria's sewage dumping into the Straits of Juan de Fuca, is much more lax about what it allows to be dumped in its water.

Most cruise ships burn a very cheap grade of fuel, called Bunker-C. This is a tar-like substance that burns dirty.

WashPIRG estimates in one day a cruise ship with 3,000 passengers and crew spews out the air pollution equivalent of more than 12,000 cars.

The overseeing agencies are getting pickier and the cruise ship industry is trying to clean up its act and is making some changes.

I have never floated on a cruise ship. The idea has no appeal to me.

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