THE GARBAGE DUMP OF THE SHIPS
Cruisers also generate huge amounts of solid wastes that have to be eliminated from the ships and dumped into the oceans, into a stop over port or in the port of departure. For economical reasons it has been decided that the limited space aboard is better to be directed to the use of the passengers and crew, as well as the supporting installations on board. There also hygienic reasons not to accumulate wastes during the trip. As a result to these considerations, the cruiser's industry has been forced to evaluate their economic and hygienic interests against the protection of marine environment.
A more severe regulation, a harder scrutiny by the public and a new environmental conscience from the industry, have enforced cruisers to adopt better techniques to prevent water contamination, restraining or sometimes even eliminating the littering of wastes into the seas.
At a worldwide level, the residual waters are still, for their volumes, the main polluting source of marine and coastal environments. Furthermore, the amounts of waste waters discharged from the coasts has dramatically risen during the last three decades. In recent times, due to the high demands for water by urban areas, the amounts of supplied water has a tendency of overwhelming the capacities of the existing drainpipes, and of increasing the volumes of residual water thrown into the seas.
Everything that goes through the drainpipes will reach the sea at last. This includes all the refuse from bathrooms, washing machines, bathing tubes, dish washers, etcetera., to which are added the residual waters from industries, sometimes containing chemicals as paint and fertilizers. Finally, all the contaminating agents contained by residual waters gather up and could cause severe problems like poisoned waters and lack of oxygen to the live organisms.
One source of marine contamination that has lately been subject to lots of publicity are the cruisers. For years cruisers have been synonymous for luxury and comfort, the paradise of wealthy people. In recent years, many more people have been able to access cruisers.
During the year 2000, the shipping companies that organised international cruisers, transported a total of 9,7 million passengers, which generated an approximate of 13 billion dollars in sold tickets. The growing demand is more and more based in the repetition of passengers. By the end of 2001, the total capacity was augmented to 235.000 'low bunks' in 273 ships.
Even though, these 'dream vacations' have not been free of problems, and several recent incidents have suggested that the industry of cruisers constitutes an aspect of commercial navigation with a hidden medium degree impact over the environment. Cruiser ships are floating cities indeed, carrying up to 5 thousand persons and travelling across the clearest waters of the oceans.
A standard cruiser, with its 3.000 persons between passengers and crew generates some:
- 115 tons of waste waters or 'black waters'.
- 960 tons of dirty waters from laundries, showers, dishwashers and other devices that include toxic chemicals (grey waters).
- 3 tons of water from the bilges.
- 1,000 tons of ballast water containing flora and fauna species from faraway locations, which is thrown out in ports and bays.
- 7 tons of garbage and solid waste.
- 60 litres of toxic chemicals.
- Air contaminants equivalent to that produced by 12 thousand cars.
Problems to the public heath due to the contamination of coastal waters with pathogen agents from sewer waters were already known in 1970. Many of the well developed countries improved the treatment of their sewer waters and reduced the entering of industrial wastes and several domestic contaminants to the municipal systems, significantly improving the quality of water. Nevertheless, undeveloped and transitional countries had not kept the same pace in the development of basic sanitary installations, neither on urban sanitary systems nor in the treatment of residual waters.
The high costs of capital, the explosive expansion of the cities and in many cases the limited technical, administrative and financial capacity of urbane planning and management, added to the necessity of operating with the existing systems for water treatment, had blocked an efficient handling of residual waters. It is most urgently needed to remove those barriers and to some find alternative points of view in order of finding solutions to all these problems.
The most recent tests performed show that there are risks of infection by gastrointestinal illnesses only for taking a bath in those waters that presumably observe the present standards of microbiological contents. They also show that the water pollution with residual waters is a worldwide health problem. Without any kind of doubt, the dispatch of residual waters into the marine environment is by far the greater contaminator. Untreated residual waters flow into the seas and pollute the clear waters.
Residual waters, industrial continent beseeches, rain water and domestic water from bath tubes, washing machines, grease, faecal mater and an endless etcetera that goes down the sewer. Untreated waste waters contain such residues as condoms, cotton-tips and sanitary products.
The faecal mater in low concentrations has little or no effects on the marine environment and could even benefit the ecosystem due to the production of particles and nutrients. But with higher levels of concentration of untreated domestic and industrial refuse residual waters could only bring pollution.
The costal area contains diverse and productive habitats that are important to human settlements, development and local subsistence. More than half the population of the Earth lives at less than 60 kilometres from the coast, and that proportion could raise to three quarters by the year 2020.
Many poor people live packed around the coastal areas. The resources of the coasts are vital for many local communities and to many indigene populations. The economic exclusion zone is also an important marine area in which States take care of development and preservation of natural resources for the well-being of their own people.
The marine environment, comprising the oceans, all the seas and their adjoining coastal areas, should be seen as an integrated whole which is one essential component of the world's system for the support of life and priceless resource that offers many possibilities for a self sustained development.
EIlen Hines: Freshwater & Marine Pollution, Department of Geography & Human Environmental Studies, San Francisco State University, October 2002
European Commission, DG VII - 83: Transport research - Fourth framework programme -EMARC - MARPOL rules and ship generated waste, Luxembourg, 1999
Greenpeace Research Laboratories: Greenpeace Report on the World's Oceans, May 1998
Australian Marine Conservation Society: Our Point of View - The Facts, December 2003
U.S. Academy of Sciences, 1997
National Research Council (NRC): Clean Ships, Olean Ports, Olean Oceans: Controlling Garbage and Plastic Wastes at Sea, National Academy Press, 1995
Brillat, T.H., M. Liffman: The implications of MARPOL Annex Von, the Management of ports and coastal communities, Coastal Management 19(3): 37-390, 1991