The cruise industry is one of the fastest growing and most visible sectors of the travel industry. Seventy percent of cruise destinations are located in biodiversity hotspots, with the vast majority in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Cruise ships bring millions of tourists to fragile ecosystems and protected areas each year, a dynamic that could threaten the sustainability of the resources on which the industry depends.
In December 2003, CELB partnered with Cruise Lines International Association* (CLIA) to launch the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance (OCTA)*, a joint initiative to protect biodiversity in top cruise destinations and promote industry practices that minimize the cruise industry's environmental impact. The OCTA is concentrating its efforts on four initial priority areas:
- Best Practices for Wastewater Management: improved shipboard technology, specifically accelerating and adopting Advanced Wastewater Purification (AWP) systems
Establishing Destination Partnerships: working with local governments and communities to maintain high-quality travel experiences by protecting the natural and cultural assets of cruise destinations
- Promoting Environmental Education: raising guest and crew awareness of and support for critical conservation issues
- Promoting Vendor Environmental Education: lessening the environmental impacts of suppliers
CLIA and CI Renew Conservation Efforts:
In June 2008, CI and CLIA signed an agreement to renew the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance, a collaborative effort to minimize the cruise industry’s environmental footprint and protect biodiversity. Under the terms of the Alliance, CI will act as a trusted advisor to the cruise industry on key environmental and conservation issues of joint interest including waste water management, the ramifications of climate change to the industry and destination stewardship. In addition to CI’s advisory role, the two organizations will work together to form working groups comprised of key CLIA and CI staff to address these priority issues. Read the press release.
Key Tourism Stakeholders in Belize Agree to Environmental Action Plan: In May 2008, members of Belize’s cruise tourism industry signed a Declaration of Commitment, in which key industry stakeholders - including government, private sector, civil society (NGOs) and the cruise lines – commit to create sustainable cruise tourism practices, such as protecting coral reefs. The commitment is the second such environmental agreement (see Cozumel) developed for Caribbean passenger cruise line destinations by Conservation International’s (CI) Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative (MARTI). It is also the first to address considerations by an established nature tourism destination and will likely serve as a model for cruise line travel destinations around the world.
Groundbreaking Agreement in Cozumel: In January 2008, CI and Cozumel’s Department of Tourism and the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association witnessed the culmination of their 12-month partnership with the signing of a groundbreaking conservation agreement by cruise industry leaders representing government, private sector, civil society, and cruise lines as part of the Mesoamerican Reef Tourism Initiative (MARTI). By facilitating this agreement the partners set into motion, for the first time ever, a major environmental initiative that will help preserve some of the most endangered biodiversity on the planet living in the world’s most visited cruise destination: Cozumel, Mexico.
Marine Ecosystems Mapping Exercise Launched: In March 2006, CI and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced a joint initiative to develop a map integrating sensitive marine areas into cruise line navigational charts with the goal of protecting critical marine and coastal ecosystems. This global mapping project comes as a result of a series of recommendations on wastewater management for the cruise industry developed by the independent science panel.
Science Panel Wastewater Recommendations Released: In March 2006, the volunteer, independent Science Panel comprised of leading marine experts convened by OCTA, released a series of 11 recommendations to the ICCL based on best management practices for cruise ship wastewater discharges.
From Ship to Shore Report Released: From Ship to Shore: Sustainable Stewardship in Cruise Destinations examines the shared responsibilities among cruise lines, governments, civil society groups and shore operators to manage the growth and expansion of the cruise industry into sensitive ecosystems. The report also profiles leadership examples of how these stakeholders are taking tangible steps to ensure a sustainable future for cruise tourism, while maintaining the natural and cultural integrity of cruise destinations.
Industry Recommendations Report Underway: The Science Panel has begun writing its final recommendations report. This report will incorporate information from three important studies: (i) independent 'Synthesis Report' commissioned by the Science Panel detailing relevant results and conclusions from previously conducted studies relating to wastewater discharges from cruise ships, (ii) the results of the EPA’s Discharge Assessment Report, and (iii) analysis from CI’s global discharge mapping project.
Global Discharge Mapping Project Instituted: Utilizing waste discharge logs from 127 cruise ships, CI is creating a map of global cruise routes and the waste discharge patterns associated with them and comparing this with additional data like sea temperatures and chlorophyll patterns. This information will provide the science panel with a better understanding of (i) where ICCL member cruise ships operate and areas of high traffic, (ii) locations of wastewater discharges, (iii) constituents, concentrations and volumes of discharges (iv) level of treatment, and (v) potential effects these current practices might have on the marine environment.
Independent science panel convened: In March 2004, the OCTA science panel, comprised of leading marine experts, met for the first time to begin the process of providing recommendations to the cruise industry on wastewater management practices. The science panel will hold regular meetings as it prepares to compile detailed feedback for the cruise industry.
Presented environmental report at cruise industry conference: In March 2003, CELB presented the interim report, A Shifting Tide: Environmental Challenges and Cruise Industry Responses at Seatrade, the largest cruise industry trade event. The report, which has been praised for its accurate and direct analysis, investigates the state of the cruise industry, its key environmental challenges and the cruise industry's responses.
Please Note: * - OCTA was originally established with the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL). In 2007, ICCL merged with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and became known solely as CLIA. All previously published news releases, reports and publications that reflect the ICCL name should be considered as CLIA under the current OCTA partnership.