The cruise industry is continually exploring ways to foster and gauge its success, as well as to correct its deficits. Although cruise comprises less than 5% of all passenger ships and only 0.2% of the world’s merchant fleet, it leads the way in cutting-edge technology and management practices that foster a healthy marine environment.

The environmental challenges facing cruise are the same environmental challenges facing every segment of the maritime industry:

Air emissions on cruise ships are being addressed with cruise industry support for the development and introduction of new engines that dramatically reduce air emissions. In addition, the development of innovative enviroengines has resulted in emission reductions as well as less fuel use and no visible smoke.

Ballast water and non-native species are the bane of ship operators worldwide, but the cruise industry is taking every feasible step to curb the problem. First of all, cruise ships travel to open ocean environments to take on their ballast water, so the chances of taking on non-native species are reduced. In addition, the industry is testing a number of new technologies, including the use of ozone, ultraviolet, filtration, heat, chemical brocides and deoxygenation to help reduce this problem. At the same time, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working on 22 potential approaches to assist in finding a solution.

Wastewater includes both greywater, the largest form of liquid waste and the by-product of cleaning, and blackwater, which is sewage. The industry has agreed to discharge greywater and blackwater only when ships are underway at a speed of not less than six knots and are more than four miles away from port. In addition, Marine sanitation devices are used to process blackwater with discharge characteristics equivalent to land-side treatment plants. Some Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) members have adopted even stricter rules and continue to develop new advanced treatment systems that produce quality drinking water from effluent that should eventually be permitted to be discharged anywhere.

Hazardous waste is of great concern to the members of the CLIA. The Waste Management Practices and Procedures, which have been agreed to by all CLIA members, are very specific. These standards require the disposal of all hazardous materials by licensed land-side vendors who must ensure full compliance with laws and environmental regulations. In addition, operators are eliminating the use of products that result in the production of hazardous waste materials. Where products cannot be eliminated, procedures are being put in place to limit their use.

Oily bilge water is the result of minor engine and machinery leaks, as well as residue from maintenance. Management of oily bilge water is a challenge the cruise industry takes very seriously. In addition to the current generation of oily water separators resulting in lower oil content in discharge, the introduction of new technology, such as gas turbine engines and the use of plasma energy to treat bilge water, now makes it possible to reach environmental goals that were not possible a decade ago.

Coral reefs are one of the most wondrous spectacles in the world and are particularly sensitive to oily bilge. These delicate reefs are home to many species of fish and are an important source of pharmaceutical compounds. Diseased or damaged reefs are a detriment to the cruise business as well as the planet’s environment. CLIA members have gone to great lengths to promote their growth and well-being through strict practices and procedures in and around the reefs, as well as advocacy and support of education and research to enhance their survival.


“CLIA cruise lines are committed to preserving and protecting the environment because their success and survival depends on it.”

An enthusiastic partnership with the EPA in developing and implementing the proposed Blue Cruise Programme is just one of the numerous steps the cruise industry is taking to address environmental challenges. This federally certified environmental programme will encourage reductions in both air and waste emissions. Individual ships meeting the award-winning standards will be recognised.

From technology to procedures to programmes, the cruise industry is ready to work with other responsible parties to protect and promote a clean environment worldwide. CLIA’s commitment, both in terms of money and manpower, to making this happen is second only to its determination to ensure that CLIA members uphold the standards agreed upon in the mandatory Waste Management Practices and Procedures, which meets or exceeds environmental laws worldwide. Recent environmental awards to CLIA member llines are a testament to the industry commitment to the health of the planet.

Separate studies by the EPA and Science Advisory Panel of the State of Alaska showed that wastewater from cruise ships was dispersed quickly with minimal impact on the marine environment. In July 2002, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) conducted Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) tests on the wastewater effluent from five different cruise ships operating in Alaskan waters.

In these WET-testing cases, the short and long-term lethal or reproductive effects on indigenous marine animal species were examined in various dilutions of discharge streams from cruise ships. Study results show that at a dilution rate of 200:1, wastewater has almost no impact on the animal species. The ADEC scientific review panel stated that wastewater discharges from large cruise ships, while underway, are not of immediate concern.

The natural beauty seen from a cruise ship reminds everyone of the duty to be faithful stewards of the environment. Whether this means taking in the sight of a delicate coral reef in the Caribbean or gazing at the majestic glaciers of Alaska, pristine water and crystal-clear skies represent an essential component of the overall cruise experience.

CLIA cruise lines are committed to preserving and protecting the environment because their success and survival depends on it. The CLIA and its member lines work diligently to eliminate all forms of pollution through improved environmental policies, procedures and technology. CLIA members have adopted aggressive programmes of waste minimisation, waste reuse and recycling, waste stream management and shore-side waste disposal. In addition, the cruise lines have invested millions of dollars in technology to continuously improve the environmental performance of their vessels.

These measures are not only intended to ensure compliance with the domestic and international laws that govern shipboard operations, they are also vital to preserving the waters in which all cruise ships sail and the ports they visit. In addition to these programmes, the CLIA is committed to preserving environmental resources by ensuring that all member cruise lines adhere to its Cruise Industry Waste Management Practices and Procedures.

Cruise ships are regulated by both international treaties and domestic law regarding safety and pollution prevention. This is necessary due to the variety of jurisdictional locations that a cruise ship might enter during a typical cruise.


CLIA member cruise vessel operators have incorporated the following areas into standards for waste stream management:

  • Greywater and blackwater discharge
  • Bilge and oily water residues
  • Photo processing disposal, including X-ray development fluid
  • Dry-cleaning fluid disposal
  • Print shop waste fluid disposal
  • Photocopying and laser printer cartridge recycling
  • Unused and outdated pharmaceutical disposal
  • Fluorescent and mercury vapour lamp bulbs disposal
  • Battery recycling
  • Glass, cardboard, aluminum and steel can recycling
  • Handling of incinerator ash

International and federal regulations provide an environmentally sound operation. However, the standards adopted by the CLIA and its members in July 2001 marked the first time in history that an association of international passenger vessel operators agreed to adhere to a wide range of waste management practices and procedures, many of which go beyond the requirements of the international and US regulatory agencies.

These environmental standards are stringent and comprehensive. They are not only intended to ensure compliance with the laws that govern ship-board operations, they are also necessary for preserving the waters on which cruise vessels sail.

The cruise industry recognises that it is important to be well received in the communities in which it does business. With that comes a certain responsibility that cruise ships do not leave a place less desirable than they found it. The CLIA pledges to do its part to protect nature’s delicate resources.