Cruise Ships and the Vancouver Winter Olympics
1st February 2010 21:57 GMT

Port Metro Vancouver has recently announced that cruise lines, including Holland America Line, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Norwegian Cruise Lines, accommodating visitors and security personnel during the upcoming Winter Olympics will commit to implementing several environmentally friendly measures to protect local air and water quality.  

These green measures include: use of low-sulphur fuel (or its equivalent), a ban on the discharge of any wastes into the harbour, shoreside disposal of solid and liquid wastes, and a prohibition on the use of shipboard incinerators.  

This initiative, although commendable, prompts the obvious question: If cruise ships can undertake these protective measures during the Olympics, why can’t they operate like this all of the time?  

With 257 cruise ship calls to Vancouver in 2009, bringing nearly 900,000 passengers to the city, Vancouver’s airshed and waters could benefit from making these progressive environmental policies permanent for all visiting cruise ships.  

And while praise is in order for the recent installation of shorepower infrastructure at the Port’s Canada Place terminal, it will take time for a majority of cruise ships to actually 'plug in,' underscoring the need to use low-sulphur fuels critical for protecting public health in the interim.  

In addition, cruise ship waste streams such as graywater (i.e., wastewater from the galley, laundry, and shower), which can contain very high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, have received inadequate attention outside of the recent short-term initiative.  

With the Olympics serving as a venue for the demonstration of environmentally protective policies, the time is right for a green shift in cruise line practices at the Port.  

However, there is no guarantee that cruise lines will voluntarily adopt such measures permanently.  

It is quite possible that cruise lines will simply revert back to their traditional polluting ways when the spotlight recedes from the Games, exposing the initiative as not much more than a public relations stunt.  

Hopefully, though, a new model will take hold – one that serves as a beacon in North America, and the world, for how a port city can truly balance economic and environmental achievement.    

John Kaltenstein,
1st February 2010 21:57 GMT

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