The federal government says cruise ships operating in Canadian waters have overwhelmingly complied with stricter wastewater guidelines put in place this spring.
Critics, however, say Transport Canada’s report is too light on details and that the industry’s largest source of water pollution remains unaddressed.
Transport Canada reported Tuesday that 47 cruise ships that traveled in Canadian waters between April 9 and June 5 voluntarily reported on compliance with the new thresholds for the treatment and dumping of wastewater, and only one failed to comply with the new guidelines.
A ship visiting ports in Quebec-St. The Lawrence and Atlantic regions only partially followed the new environmental measures because they did not have a greywater treatment system that could comply with the new measures and had to discharge greywater within the minimum distance from shore to ensure the stability of the ship, Transport Canada said.
Some ships visited multiple regions, with 35 cruise ships traveling the Pacific Rim, another 13 ships visiting Quebec-St. Lawrence and the Atlantic regions, and five in the Great Lakes, Transport Canada said.
In April, the federal government announced new voluntary wastewater (blackwater) and graywater discharge and treatment guidelines — which includes cooking water, laundry detergent, cleaning products, food waste, cooking oils and fats, as well as dangerous carcinogens and other contaminants — which are scheduled to be mandatory in 2023.
The cruise industry injects more than $4 billion a year into the Canadian economy and creates some 30,000 direct and indirect jobs, especially in the tourism sector, the federal agency said.
“Cruise ships are an important part of our economy and tourism sector, and we must all work together to reduce their impact on the environment and keep our waters safe and clean for everyone.” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.
However, the cruise industry’s adherence to the guidelines is voluntary and the sector can self-report its compliance with the new wastewater measures, said Anna Barford, shipping campaigner for Stand.earth.
Ottawa’s assessment of the cruise industry’s compliance with the new pollution guidelines is not transparent, and the proposed rules fail to address the biggest source of water pollution: wastewater from scrubbers, says @alesliebarford @standearth.
Transport Canada’s report lacks the critical data needed to ensure the protection of Canada’s coastlines, Barford said.
“It’s shocking… There’s just no information in it,” he said.
For example, there are no details about which ships were in Canadian waters, their treatment systems, where they dumped wastewater, or how the federal government independently verified or ensured compliance, Barford said.
It is also unclear whether the number of ships that voluntarily reported enforcement action is equal to the number that traveled in Canadian waters.
Compliance with the new measures is verified during formal port inspections of ships, Transport Canada spokesman Sau Sau Liu said. Canadian National Observer in an email.
However, the email did not clarify if, when or where port inspections were carried out.
When requesting data from reports supplied by cruise ships to the federal government, Canadian National Observer You have been advised that Transport Canada will only release aggregated data to demonstrate participation rates for the industry as a whole.
Aside from transparency concerns, Canada’s new regulations do not prohibit the discharge of wastewater, treated or untreated, into environmentally sensitive zones or marine protected areas, Barford said.
US Pacific states north and south of BC have stricter rules, he said.
California prohibits the discharge of wastewater within three kilometers of the coast and in National Marine Sanctuariesand the state of Washington has established a sewer no discharge zone in Puget Sound to protect the shellfish industry and human health.
What’s more, it appears that the Canadian government did not include regulations for sewage treatment wastewater, the largest source of water pollution, in the new guidelines after pressure from the cruise industry, he said.
A debugger download is created when cruise ships use dirty heavy fuel oil (HFO), but employ exhaust gas cleaning systems, or scrubbers, which use water to “wash” pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, carcinogens, and heavy metals from exhaust gases and then they dump them into the ocean instead of atmosphere.
The discharge of sewage water is entirely avoidable if ships simply used, or were forced to use, cleaner-burning fuels to meet international emissions standards, Barford said.
the acid discharge includes heavy metalsthat can accumulate in the food web and harm marine life, such as the endangered southern resident killer whales, Barford said, adding that more than 90 percent of wastewater discharged by cruise ships involves discharges from scrubbers.
Transport Canada did not clarify whether it had a concrete timeline for addressing the wastewater from the scrubbers.
The federal government will continue to work with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to establish and harmonize rules on wastewater from scrubbers and intends to receive input from industry and other partners on the issue this fall, Liu said.
The recent wastewater measures exceed those set by the IMO, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray said, and demonstrate the federal commitment to protecting the oceans and setting a more sustainable course for the tourism industry.
But the federal government is comparing itself to the lower thresholds of wastewater regulations, Barford said, adding that Canada needs to at least match the stricter standard set by neighboring Pacific Rim states.
“Canada has one of the longest coastlines of any nation-state in the world and we have thriving inland seas,” Barford said.
“But if we continue to pursue minimum standards and opportunities to pollute, rather than protect, our ocean economy and coastal communities are at risk.”
Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canadian National Observer