The multi-billion dollar cruise line business, plying international waters alongside different national jurisdictions, has been playing a hide and seek game for years. Hiding the dumping of harmful wastes and chemicals into marine environments and seeking all kinds of concessions and non-regulation by lobbying and federal regulators.
This statement should be of concern to the gurus of tourism in Barbados who have embarked on a strategy in recent years to upgrade port facilities and market Barbados as a home port for many of the worlds cruise ship companies. In fact the concern should exist for all the Caribbean islands if we understand that our physical space is small and that our eco-system connects us all. According to the Ralph Nader article the mega-billion cruise ship industry has been generous by throwing money around to ensure US government law makers ignore the havoc wrecked on the marine environment in the Caribbean waters by mega cruise ships.
Of course if the law makers in the USA or Barbados are prepared to look the other way it should be left to the press to expose the current sordid state of affairs. No such luck. All right thinking Barbadians and even Caribbean people have resigned themselves to the limitations of our regional media. What this translates to is a cruise industry which has assumed the dominant partner in the relationship with Caribbean countries governing how they cruise our waters.
Alaska, a popular destination for cruise ships has been the exception in the fight against the unfriendly environmental practices of the cruise industry. They have established water standards which cruise ships must comply, independent marine engineers are placed aboard every ship to make sure untreated wastes is not dumped or logbooks falsified, they collect taxes based on the gambling which takes place in Alaskan waters. To reinforce their laws they reward whistle blowers handsomely from the penalties collected from offenders.
We are reminded of the greed which the large cruise ship companies can exhibit by the action of Carnival Cruise Lines which received a no-bid contract with FEMA in the aftermath of the Katrina Affair. Imagine Carnival charging USD236 million dollars for the rental of three ships to house homeless people for a short period. There was also the time when they installed “magic pipes” which deliberately bypassed bilge water separators and there was the giving of false information to the Coast Guard.
We deliberately wrote a long preamble to support the point we are about to make. For most of our Caribbean economies the staple money earner is tourism, and Barbados included rely heavily on cruise ship passengers to bolster the tourist strategy as a means to diversify the product. After what you have read, have you seen any initiative similar to that undertaken by Alaska? Do you feel that Barbados and the other Caribbean governments negotiate with the many cruise lines sailing in our waters as equals? To be honest, I always get the impression that for Minister Lynch and his counterparts across the region, it is all about a numbers game:
How many cruise ship passengers?
How many short and long stay arrivals.
What is the average dollar spend?
The moral of our long winded piece today is to highlight the lack of planning by our leaders within the cruise ship sector. We do not get a sense that decisions being made in Barbados and the Caribbean about the cruise ship sector are being balanced with the environmental and other concerns. We similarly get the sense that the cruise ship liners sailing our waters are doing so on their terms.
God help our future generations when we succeed in turning one of the most exotic locations in the world into a cesspool.
Related BU Stories