The latest grades are out, and for the most part, the Friends of the Earth (FOE) flunked its own report.

In the Cruise Ship Environmental Report Card released recently by Friends of the Earth, the nonprofit organization noted improvements among the cruise lines as well as big disappointments since its 2009 report.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) released the following statement in response to the report:

"It is unfortunate that instead of contributing to a meaningful scientific dialogue about protecting our oceans, FOE continues to use innuendo and to misstate the facts to advance its agenda. This ‘report card’ is not based on science, law, or the facts, and like its last one, is rooted in FOE’s own arbitrary and flawed criteria.

"CLIA member cruise lines meet and often exceed all applicable international and federal environmental standards enforced by U.S. authorities and others around the world. CLIA and its members have explained to FOE in great detail the regulations that govern the cruise line industry in the U.S. and abroad, as well as the many practices and technological innovations underway that go beyond what it required of cruise ships all in the name of protecting the environment. FOE’s repeated refusal to acknowledge the facts is further evidence that its so-called ‘report card’ is intended only to advance its own extreme agenda. Fortunately, regulatory compliance and environmental protection is not based on meeting FOE’s biased, unscientific interpretation of what the rules should be.

"Within the broader maritime industry, the environmental work of our lines is in fact setting the gold standard. CLIA has brought FOE representatives on board a cruise ship to see our systems and procedures firsthand and to ask questions, and it is disappointing these efforts to educate FOE about the facts were futile."

For instance:

  • While some ships in the CLIA fleet are fitted to plug-in to shore power, this technology is only available at five berths in North America. Therefore to fail a ship for not using port-side technology that is not even available is emblematic of FOE’s tactics and further discredits this so-called ‘report card.’‬
  • The water pollution standards FOE used to grade "Water Quality Compliance" are not standards at all. They are future wastewater targets in Alaska not yet in effect. In fact, these targets have been postponed until 2015. Monitoring is in place to track ongoing progress to meet these future standards and in 2009 the industry scored a remarkably high 98.2 percent achievement record.‬‬
  • The ‘sewage treatment’ criteria used by FOE is flawed. While many vessels in CLIA’s oceangoing fleet are equipped with Advanced Wastewater Purification Systems (AWPS – which produces an effluent cleaner than most municipalities) those ships that do not have this new technology still meet regulations by using federally-required sewage treatment systems in accordance with industry practices and procedures.‬‬
  • FOE’s assertion that untreated blackwater (sewage) can be discharged three nautical miles from shore is incorrect. In fact, while international regulations permit its discharge 12 nautical miles from shore, member cruise lines as a policy treat blackwater prior to discharge.‬
  • In accordance with CLIA practices and procedures, blackwater discharged in U.S. waters by CLIA’s oceangoing fleet is treated by an AWPS. Beyond U.S. waters, and anywhere else our ships sail, in accordance with CLIA’s Waste Management Practices and Procedures, member cruise lines treat all blackwater through a Type II Marine Sanitation Device (approved by the U.S. Coast Guard for all vessels in U.S. ports) or an AWPS.‬

"Our lines are committed to protecting the environments in which we operate and are constantly developing and implementing state of the art practices and procedures such as shore power, exhaust gas scrubbers, diesel electric power plants and advanced wastewater treatment technologies to further reduce our impact on the natural environment."

The report card features 11 cruise lines and 113 ships, rating their performance in such categories as sewage treatment, air-pollution reduction and water-quality compliance. Overall, Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line received the highest grades of B-minus.

The study recognized Disney as the “most improved” cruise line since last year’s report, mainly for installing advanced wastewater treatment systems on its ships. And Crystal Cruises, new to the report this year, copped an F.

"We are very disturbed at FOE’s questionable criteria and selective research to rate cruise ships," Crystal wrote.

"Crystal Cruises has implemented many initiatives that focus on waste streams, such as energy conservation, water filtration and waste reduction. In keeping with our high standards in everything we do, Crystal Cruises’ policy on sewage discharge exceeds international regulations. With our Environmental Management System, Crystal has achieved certification to the ISO 14001 standard, which is only awarded to those companies that meet a comprehensive and stringent set of criteria. In fact, Crystal was recertified this past year following an extensive audit.

"We are proud to be internationally recognized for our ‘Crystal Clean’ initiatives. In 2009, the Ports of Stockholm presented Crystal Symphony with the Environmental Buoy Diploma for the third time, in recognition of our waste management efforts in the region, and Crystal Cruises was awarded the ‘Venice Blue Flag’ by the port of Venice for our commitment to reducing emissions and safeguarding the city’s environment."

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