MIAMI - Royal Caribbean International cruise lines will add equipment to its ships that will better clean sewage and waste water before it's dumped in the ocean, officials said Wednesday.
The ships' equipment will clean the up to 24,000 gallons of sewage or "blackwater" and 265,000 gallons of "graywater" from laundries, showers, sinks and dishwashers each dumps daily when it's at sea.
The announcement came a month after the nonprofit advocacy organization Oceana and other groups called for the cruise line to clean up its sewage and wastewater to protect marine habitats and human health. At the time, the company accused the groups of "grandstanding."
"We are confident today this technology economically and environmentally can treat graywater and blackwater to levels of purity equivalent to Alaska wastewater standards," Royal Caribbean chairman and chief executive Richard Fain wrote in a letter Tuesday to Oceana officials.
After state and federal laws were passed setting stricter standards for cruise ships in Alaska in 2000 and 2001, many ships installed more advanced wastewater treatment systems that enabled them to meet them, said Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines, an industry group.
Oceana officials called Royal Caribbean's decision to require the systems on all of its ships "a precedent-setting move."
"Our hope all along has been that if we have Royal Caribbean do this the others will follow their lead," spokesman Sam Haswell said Wednesday.
Royal Caribbean now has such systems on three of its 29 vessels. The advanced systems use ultrafiltration or reverse osmosis to reduce pollutants. They will eventually be added to the other 26 ships and any new ships brought into the fleet.
Royal Caribbean says it has improved its environmental practices since 1999, when it paid $27 million after acknowledging it had polluted repeatedly and lied to the Coast Guard about it.