Cruise line credibility at stake in waste disposal

Posted: Tuesday, June 06, 2000

The cruise ship has taken a beating over wastewater and sewage dumping in Alaska. One company was fined millions of dollars, and rightfully so. The rest of the industry has obviously been tainted.

In an effort to stem some of the public backlash and criticism, last week the industry announced rather substantial changes in the way it will handle some of its waste. It's a good move on the part of the cruise industry. Let's hope they stick to it.

Cruise ships now won't discharge their wastewater storage tanks until they're at least 10 miles from a port they've visited or plan to. Currently, these ships can discharge gray water - from showers and sinks - anywhere. The cruise lines also agreed they won't dump garbage or untreated sewage overboard within the Inside Passage.

As we said, it's a smart move on the part of the industry. It's also one of those agreements many will say should always have been in place. Industry critics will of course immediately point out the entire agreement is voluntary on the part of the cruise lines - basically, there's no enforcement aspect since it's voluntary.

Actually, we think it's going to be enforced; the industry now can't afford not to.

We applaud the cruise lines for addressing public concerns. That's what good corporate citizens do and they should be commended for doing so. At the same time, as the old adage goes, the proof will be in the pudding.

The industry is asking Alaskans to trust them. They say they won't dump wastewater within certain parameters, and won't dump garbage and untreated sewage overboard. Fine, we'll take them at their word. Of course, the first time a cruise ship violates their own agreement, well, there will be hell to pay.

Will this voluntary agreement stick? We think so. The cruise industry has too much at stake - basically the trust of every Alaskan. If they fail here, they have lost something far more valuable than profit. They lose their credibility.

So we applaud the industry's efforts and trust they'll stick to it.

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