Transport Canada says most cruise ships reported complying with new sewage guidelines
The federal government says cruise ships operating in Canadian waters have largely complied with stricter sewage guidelines put in place this spring.
However, critics say Transport Canada’s report is very light on detail and the industry’s biggest source of water pollution remains unaddressed.
Transport Canada reported Tuesday that 47 cruise ships sailing in Canadian waters between April 9 and June 5 voluntarily declared compliance with new sewage treatment and discharge thresholds, and only one did not meet the new guidelines.
A ship calling at the ports of Québec-St. The St. Lawrence and Atlantic regions only partially followed the new environmental measures because they did not have a gray water treatment system that could respond to the new measures and had to discharge gray water inland. the minimum distance from shore to ensure vessel stability, Transport Canada said.
Some ships visited multiple regions, with 35 cruise ships sailing the Pacific Coast, another 13 ships visiting Quebec-St. The St. Lawrence and Atlantic regions, and five on the Great Lakes, Transport Canada said.
In April, the federal government announced new voluntary guidelines on the discharge and treatment of sewage (black water) and gray water – which includes cooking water, laundry detergents, cleaning products, garbage food, cooking oils and fats as well as dangerous carcinogens and other pollutants – which are due to become mandatory in 2023.
The cruise industry annually injects more than $4 billion into the Canadian economy and creates around 30,000 direct and indirect jobs, particularly in the tourism sector, the federal agency said.
“Cruise ships are an important part of our economy and our tourism sector, and we must all work together to reduce their impact on the environment and keep our waters safe and clean for all,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.
However, the cruise ship industry’s adherence to the guidelines is voluntary and the sector is allowed to self-declare its compliance with the new sewage measures, said Anna Barford, Stand’s maritime campaign manager. earth.
Ottawa’s assessment of the cruise industry’s compliance with new pollution guidelines is not transparent, and the proposed rules fail to address the biggest source of water pollution – sewage from scrubbers, says @alesliebarford @standearth.
The Transport Canada report lacks critical data needed to protect Canada’s coasts, Barford said.
“It’s shocking… There’s just no information in it,” she said.
For example, there are no details about which ships were in Canadian waters, their treatment systems, where they discharged the sewage, or how the federal government verified or ensured compliance of independently, Barford said.
It is also unclear whether the number of vessels that voluntarily reported compliance measures is equal to the number that traveled in Canadian waters.
Compliance with the new measures is checked during official port inspections of ships, said Transport Canada spokesperson Sau Sau Liu. Canadian National Observer in an email.
However, the email did not specify if, when or where port inspections took place.
When requesting reporting data provided by cruise ships from the federal government, Canadian National Observer was advised that Transport Canada will only release aggregate data to demonstrate participation rates for the entire industry.
Transparency issues aside, Canada’s new regulations do not prohibit the discharge of sewage, treated or untreated, into environmentally sensitive areas or marine protected areas, Barford said.
US Pacific states north and south of British Columbia have stricter rules, she said.
California prohibits sewage dumping within two miles of shore and in national marine sanctuaries, and Washington State has established a sewage no-discharge zone in Puget Sound to protect the shellfish industry and shellfish and human health.
Additionally, it appears the Canadian government failed to include regulations on sewage from scrubbers, the biggest source of water pollution, in the new guidelines after pressure from the cruise ship industry, she said.
Scrubber landfill is created when cruise ships use dirty heavy fuel oil (HFO) but use exhaust gas cleaning systems, or scrubbers, which use water to “wash” pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, carcinogens and heavy metals from exhaust fumes and then flush them out into the ocean rather than the atmosphere.
The discharge of scrubber water is entirely avoidable if ships simply used, or were mandated to use, cleaner fuels to meet international emission standards, Barford said.
Acid discharges include heavy metals, which can accumulate in the food web and harm marine life, such as endangered southern resident killer whales, Barford said, adding that more than 90% of sewage discharged by cruise ships involve discharges from scrubbers.
Transport Canada has not specified whether it has a concrete timeline for treating wastewater from the scrubbers.
The federal government will continue to work with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to establish and harmonize rules on sewage from scrubbers and intends to seek input from industry and other partners on the issue this fall, Mr. Liu said.
Recent wastewater measures exceed those established by the IMO, Fisheries and Oceans Minister Joyce Murray said, and demonstrate the federal government’s commitment to protecting the oceans and creating a more sustainable course for the ocean. tourism industry.
But the federal government is benchmarking itself against the lower thresholds of wastewater regulations, Barford said, adding that Canada needed to at least match the stricter bar set by neighboring Pacific Coast 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 seek minimum standards and opportunities to pollute, instead of protect, our ocean economy and coastal communities are at risk.”
Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / National Observer of Canada