By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
WHILE the cruise industry is gearing up for a big post-COVID comeback starting as early as this month, activists are calling for serious changes in the industry.
Local and international activists have come together under the Global Cruise Activist Network to demand “no return to business as usual” after the receding of the COVID-19 virus.
During a Zoom press conference, local activist Sam Duncombe called on the Bahamian government to “do better” in terms of oversight of the cruise industry.
Ms Duncombe referenced incidents of cruise ships dumping in Bahamian waters.
“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," he said.
“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, that they really need to clean up their act and do better.”
The activist network introduced a set of global guidelines called the principles of responsible cruise tourism that they want companies to follow before cruise ships resume sailing.
Those guidelines, in part, call for the cruise industry to create a safe, just, and equitable environment for workers on board and on shore by aligning with the strictest labour and environmental standards in the world.
The network also wants the industry to “stop contributing to climate change” by publicly committing to achieving zero emissions across the entire global fleet, including implementing slow-steaming protocols, halting LNG investments, and eliminating the use of heavy fuel oil globally and to stop polluting the air and water by leading the development of a universal shore power system, ceasing the use of scrubbers, and stopping the dumping of all waste near shore.
They also want ships to reduce speeds near coasts to prevent whale strikes and avoid sonic disturbances to sensitive coastal and marine wildlife, stop development of private cruise destinations, and eliminate dumping of all plastic waste.
Cruise ships have also been urged to notify passengers of the potential health risks of breathing ship exhaust, implement measures to control the spread of disease, and when an outbreak occurs, cease all travel immediately and provide real-time reporting of infectious diseases.
The activists also wants ships to institute policies and practices to protect passengers, including from sexual assault, and implement Man Overboard Detection technology.
International Cruise Victims (ICV) is an organisation born almost 15 years ago by four families who lost relatives on a cruise vacation. They came together as a collective voice for those who have been victimized by the cruise industry.
Jamie Barnett, head of ICV said, “We represent passengers and crew worldwide who have been victims of crime such as sexual assault, approximately 34 percent of those having been committed against minors is something the public really needs to be aware of, but the cruise lines doesn’t want you to be aware of. There have been unsolved disappearances, suspicious deaths, substandard medical care, fires, ships that run aground, murky jurisdictional and legal issues like ships sailing under flags of convenience, create.
“We grew and went on to seek legislation for reform of the cruise industry. In 2010 our efforts were rewarded as the Cruise Vessels Security and Safety Act was passed into law, providing the first steps in regulated passenger and crew protection. We’ve been terribly concerned over the fact the cruise industry, having been complicit in the spread of COVID-19, is going to try to sell the world some type of snake oil of certain safety protocol in order to return to sailing again. “Toward that end, we have written the two CEOs of cruise lines, and sent them registered letters, asking them for a seat at their panel of experts table, supposedly hired to come up with satisfactory guidelines for re-sailing. So far, we have not heard back from them.”
For her part, Mrs Duncombe referenced the unsuccessful fight from local activists to stop a cruise development in Eleuthera.
“For the last two years, we have been actually working towards trying 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,” Ms Duncombe said. “Disney submitted their EIA over eight months ago. . .we continue to remain in the dark over it. We would really like, going forward, that the government of The Bahamas undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment on the entire cruise industry in the country to determine whether or not we should move forward, if at all.”
Disney submitted its EIA to the government last December for review.