By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A Bahamian environmental activist yesterday called for "a ban" on any further cruise line private islands in this nation, and demanded that the industry "clean up its act".
Sam Duncombe, president of reEarth, used the Global Cruise Activist Network's launch to urge that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) be conducted to assess the cruise industry's activities and effects on The Bahamas in their entirety.
Speaking on a webinar, she said: “There have been a number of incidents where cruise ships have dumped in our waters and we’ve done absolutely nothing about it in terms of getting them to pay for it.
"In The Bahamas we have seven different private cruise ports and, according to the Ministry of Tourism’s statistics, 75 percent of our tourists are cruise ship passengers, but they only account for 11 percent of the tourism revenue.”
“With private cruise ports, the earnings for the host country is even less. So we would also like a ban on any more private cruise ports and, absolutely, in terms of their general function moving forward, they [the cruise lines] really need to clean up their act and do better.”
The Global Cruise Activist Network, which was launched at yesterday's webinar, is using the industry's sailing pause to "demand the cruise industry doesn’t return to business as usual as ships start sailing again after the COVID-19 pandemic".
Said to be drawn from port communities frequented and impacted by the cruise industry, the Network said in its launch mission statement that it also intends to take up labour-related issues impacting the sector's employees as well as environmental concerns.
With Mrs Duncombe and Save the Bays' Joe Darville representing The Bahamas, other Network members were said to come from the Cayman Islands, Belize, and port communities in the US, UK, Europe, Canada and Australia.
Despite the promise of significant cruise line investment in The Bahamas pre-COVID-19, there was increasing concern among many Bahamians that the economic benefits from the sector were tilted in favour of the sector due to its use of private islands and ability to keep onboard attractions/amenities open when in port in Nassau and Freeport.
Reports to the US courts by an environmental monitor also exposed numerous pollution incidents in Bahamian waters involving Carnival Cruise Lines and its affiliates. The Government, though, said the proposed Carnival and RoyalCaribbean/ITM Group investments in Freeport were an attempt to switch the cruise lines' investments from remote private islands to projects closer to major cities.
However, Mrs Duncombe said she and other activists are maintaining their opposition to Disney Cruise Line's project at Lighthouse Point on the southern tip of Eleuthera.
“For the last two yearswe have been actually working to try to get Disney Cruise Lines to go away from a beautiful spot in Eleuthera, The Bahamas, which has been proposed as a marine protected area," she said.
"Disney submitted their EIA over eight months ago, though the public has not seen a word of it. We continue to remain in the dark over it. We would really like, going forward, that the Government of The Bahamas undertake an EIA on the entire cruise industry in the country to determine whether or not we should move forward, if at all.”
Describing itself as being inspired by the 2002 Cape Town Declaration on Responsible Tourism, the Future of Tourism Coalition’s Guiding Principles, and the principles of free, prior and informed consent, the Global Cruise Activist Network urged the cruise lines to delay their return to operations until they address the so-called Principles of responsible cruise tourism.
"For decades the cruise industry’s business practices have put the social fabric, economic integrity, public health and environment of host communities - as well as passengers, crew, coastal and marine ecosystems, and the climate - at risk," the Network said.
"The latest example of this - the industry’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic - shows that the industry is unwilling to protect the public interest without legally binding regulations."
Jane da Mosto of Venice, Italy, added: "“The Global Cruise Activist Network is calling for an equitable and responsible system of leisure travel that optimises economic benefits to all stakeholders, while eliminating the negative social, public health and environmental impacts of cruising on port communities, workers and passengers.
"We oppose the return of a ‘business-as-usual’ cruise ship industry. Until these common sense policies are collectively adopted, effectively implemented and consistently monitored, the cruise industry will remain complicit in putting passengers, crew, communities and the planet at risk."