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The Environmental Impact of Cruise Ships

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
May 15, 2005

The impact of cruise ships on the environment is an important issue that needs to be addressed in order to mitigate damage to the surrounding ecosystem. Cruise ships generate significant quantities of wastes that the industry disposes of with surprisingly little regulation. For example, the cruise ship industry is not subject to the same environmental standards as land-based industries. Furthermore, where there is regulation, there is often marginal enforcement. Due to the concentration of cruise ships in a small number of environmentally sensitive areas, the potential environmental impacts of the industry are intensified. As the size of the cruise ship industry increases, the need to regulate the environmental effects of cruise ships is becoming more urgent. The cruise ship industry is very large and is rapidly expanding. In 1998, more than 223 cruise ships worldwide carried an estimated 9.5 million passengers. Many of these cruise ships are the size of small cities. Between 2002 and 2005, cruise ship companies plan to add 51 more ships to the fleet, many of which are larger than any existing cruise ships. As the size of the cruise ship industry increases, so does the industry's potential for causing adverse environmental impacts. The first section of this paper provides an introduction to the cruise industry and a description of the different waste streams generated daily by a typical cruise ship. It also describes the consequences of pollution on the environment. The next section discusses current regulations and their efficiency in regulating waste streams. The next section addresses the actions being taken to mitigate the environmental impact of cruise ships and provides an assessment of the effectiveness of these actions. Finally, the last section provides recommendations on future actions needed to reduce adverse environmental burdens and impacts arising from cruise ship operations.

Research Areas
Mobility Systems

cruise ship waste streams, enforcement, environmental regulation

Publication Type
Conference Proceeding
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Commoy, Juliette, Catherine Polytika, Rebecca Nadel and Jonathan W. Bulkley. 2005. The Environmental Impact of Cruise Ships.” Proceedings of the World Water Congress: Impacts of Global Climate Change, Anchorage, AK (May 15-19, 2005): 173, 308.