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Coral Accident Rocks Carnival 

There was a time when, if the world lost some coral reefs to human carelessness, it was greeted with a reaction akin to a shrug of the shoulders and dismissed with “too bad.”

As we have become more environmentally aware, and responsible, that has changed. So when a cruise ship (Carnival Magic) accidentally destroys a field of coral estimated to be almost 12,000 square feet in size, it’s a big deal.

This happened in late August. The Magic dropped anchor near Grand Cayman, where every cruise passenger is taken ashore in small boats (tenders) to protect what is a playground for deep-sea divers, not to mention the life forms that live among the coral. The problem occurred when the Magic’s anchor hit bottom inside a restricted area, guided there by a local pilot in one of the pilot boats that escort cruise ships to and from ports.

Near George Town, Grand Cayman, there are four areas where it’s safe to anchor…where the coral has already been destroyed. The Port Authority directed the pilot to the southernmost area. The pilot directed the captain of the Magic. Because of high winds, the pilot missed the designated area by about 600 feet.

So did the Magic.

The ensuing damage from the anchor’s crashing into coral, then being dragged through it Coraluntil the ship stopped, then being dragged from it when the Magic left is enough that it will take five or six decades to restore coral that disappeared in three hours.

Under Marine Conservation Law, it is illegal to damage coral with an anchor.

So it was an accident, the damage is done and the blame game hasn’t peaked yet.

Officials at the Port Authority say it’s not their fault…the pilot was directed to the safe area. Carnival, which hires the pilots through an agency, can likely maintain at least some degree of innocence because it was the pilot who directed the Magic’s captain. However, the cruise line is only saying it’s “in discussions with the shipping agent.”

This isn’t like an environmental disaster, like oil spill that requires millions of dollars to clean up. This is damage done. No fine is going to restore the coral and the biggest concern of environmentalists is to make sure it can never happen again.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): “While it is difficult to put a dollar value on some of the benefits coral ecosystems provide, one recent estimate gave the total net benefit of the world’s coral reef ecosystems to be $29.8 billion/year.”

Benefits include food, protection from storms, and habitat, spawning and nursery grounds for species of the sea…not to mention the income and jobs that come with all of that.

One thing you can be certain of — this story is not over.

Today at portsandbows.com: Another ship going Far East

Carnival Freedom
6 nights
November 9, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Falmouth, Grand Cayman, Cozumel
Inside: $229
Cost per day: $39
www.carnival.com

Questions with Victoria's Environmental Change

Photo: Greater Victoria Harbour Authority

The people of Victoria, British Columbia's capital city and a regular port for cruise ships going to and from Alaska, are choked. Or maybe that should be "choking."

Here, point by point, is why:

• The city scrapped plans to install shore power (electrical plug-ins) to improve air quality from visiting cruise ships.

• The reasoning for the $9-million decision was that stricter environmental rules would do the job.

• Residents have long complained about emissions from not just ships but also buses and related shuttle vehicles that service passengers.

• The 'scrubbers" that ships are using to meet environmental standards won't be in place until sometime in 2016.

• Between now and then, residents want to allow only one ship without a scrubber to be in port at any one time.

All of this raises at least a few questions:

1. If Canada's busiest cruise port is right, that scrubbers will eliminate the need for shore power to meet environmental regulations, then why did "neighboring" cities like Seattle and Vancouver install them?

2. Do residents really think schedules can be adjusted so that only one non-scrubber ship is in port at once without alienating the cruise lines that stop there?

3. Whether it's shore power or scrubbers, neither will address air-quality complaints from the exhaust of buses, shuttles and taxis.

4. Does Victoria have a bigger decision to make, about whether it wants to be a cruise port or not?

This year, there are 207 cruise-ships visits scheduled for Victoria.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: A photo essay about cruising

Norwegian Breakaway
7 nights
June 15, 2014
New York (return): King’s Wharf
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
www.ncl.com

Even Cleaning Standard Cruise Ship Fuel Comes with a Price Tag

The good news on the weekend is that Carnival is going to try and make a cruise ship's fuel cleaner, in order to meet environmental standards going into effect in two years, rather than simply burn cleaner fuel.

Cleaner fuel costs more. That means the cost would trickle down to North American consumers…the Environmental Protection Agency emission standards apply to the coasts of this continent. By cleaning existing fuel, cruise ships will not have to pay more for it.

The bad news, of course, is that while cruisers won't have to pay to cover more expensive fuel, there is a cost attached to cleaning the old stuff so that its exhaust is less of a polluter.

How does $180 million sound…and you think that cost will filter down to your cruise fare?

According to the Miami Herald, which publishes in Carnival Corp's home port, that's what is being invested in new technology to clean up on exhaust. While it's being tested on 32 of the corporation's ships, the EPA will let Carnival to continue using standard (cheaper) fuel. That means it's going to take at least a couple of years before the technology gets the EPA stamp of approval.

Hopefully, it will work.

There is a question or two:

Why did not just Carnival but all cruise lines need to have its collective feet held to the fire by the EPA before getting serious about reducing fuel emissions? If the EPA hadn't given them a deadline of 2015, would cruise ships have just continued to pollute the atmosphere?

Carnival Valor
7 nights
October 20, 2013
San Juan (return): St. ThomasBarbadosSt. LuciaSt. KittsSt. Maarten
Inside: $359
Cost per day: $51
www.carnival.com

 

Alaska on Verge of Another Crisis

There's an interesting law being enacted in Alaska (yes, another one) this year that could impact the cruise industry. Specifically, it could impact how much your cruise costs to visit the 49th state.

It has to do with clean (and more expensive) fuel, and it can get a bit complex, so we'll give you the quick and dirty (no pun intended) version:

1. Since last August, cargo carriers and cruise ships must use low-sulphur fuel within 200 miles of U.S. and Canadian shores (the first full cruise season since then has just begun for Alaska).

2. Further emission cuts will kick in over the next seven years.

3. The Cruise Lines International Association says: "the increased costs translate into fewer cruise-ship visitors" who are initially having to pay an average of $88 more per ticket.

4. The Environmental Protection Agency says the CLIA complaints are like "having a houseguest who leaves all of his trash in your yard and then complains when you ask him to pick it up."

5. The state is suing to prevent the restrictions from being enforced.

6. Offsetting the $3.2 billion it will cost to implement the process, the EPA estimates the health benefits could be up to $110 billion by 2020.

Now all of this sounds like a legitimate case of two sides agreeing to disagree on the pros and cons…until you get to the last point.

Health benefits of $110 billion?

How does anybody come up with that?


Ruby Princess
12 nights
August 4, 2013
Venice, Dubrovnik, Corfu, Olympia, Athens, Mykonos, Ephesus, Santorini, Naples, Rome
Inside: $799
Cost per day: $66
www.princess.com

Alaska Backs Off On Environment

Environmental issues can often be complicated. The latest one — this week in Alaska — is definitely complicated.

If you're interested in protecting the environment (duh!) and the part that cruise ships play in it, read on…and if you want to read this in more detail, Richard Mauer of The Anchorage Daily News has it all here at the paper's website: www.adn.com.

There was a vote in the Alaska legislature in Juneau this week lowering specific environmental standards for cruise ships. Our initial reaction was shock. In this day and age, can such a thing be possible?

Well, there's more to it.

One, since the election the 49th state is ruled by one party (Republican) for the first time in years, and we all know that Democrats are more strongly associated with environmental issues. The bill to allow cruise ships to dump ammonia, copper and other contaminants into Alaska waters passed, easily.

Two, the standards of the still-existing bill are technologically impossible to meet.

Three, one of the reasons the bill passed is that cruise ships were being held to higher standards than local ferries, municipal systems and fishing vessels.

Four, the treatment facilities on cruise ships have been improved to the point where by the time it's dumped it is allegedly harmless to the environment.

Environmentalists see it as sacrificing the fishing industry for the cruise industry. Proponents who were democratically elected by the people of Alaska see it as heaping unfair standards on an industry that has long paid serious attention to being that good corporate citizen.


Costa Atlantica
7 nights
April 5, 2013
Dubai (return): Khasab, Muscat, Fujairah, Abu Dhabi
Inside: $499
Cost per day: $71
www.costacruise.com

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