Cruising Toward Disaster
Enforcement needed to regulated environmental safeguards at sea
Every year, cruise ships transport millions of people through California’s most pristine marine environments. These ships - the largest of which carry more than 5,000 people - are floating cities that produce and discharge into the ocean enormous volumes of waste. The rapidly expanding size and number of cruise ships in US waters has triggered a national cruise ship pollution crisis. While California has the strictest laws in the nation regarding discharge, there is currently no way to make sure that the laws are enforced. Senate Bill 1582 (Simitian) would help keep our oceans clean by requiring that an Ocean Ranger be present on cruise ships.
A typical cruise ship on a one-week voyage generates an astonishing 50 tons of garbage, one million gallons of graywater (waste water from sinks, showers, galleys, and laundry facilities), 210,000 gallons of sewage, and 35,000 gallons of oil-contaminated water. Most of this waste is dumped directly into the ocean, some treated, some not. Improperly treated wastes released into the ocean can significantly hurt California's aquatic ecosystems and the people and industries that depend upon them. Additionally, luxury liners spew a range of pollutants into the air that can lead to acid rain and contribute to global warming. They can also spread invasive species by dumping untreated ballast water in coastal zones.
The Ocean Ranger serves essential functions includingTo provide environmental monitoring of waste discharge systems on cruise ships to ensure that California’s zero-discharge laws are being followed; andTo provide a law enforcement presence on cruise ships to investigate and report alleged crimes, and to maintain evidence for on-shore law enforcement agencies where appropriate.
The cruise ship industry not only has a poor record on self-policing around environmental laws; it also fails to adequately protect passengers from crime. Currently, the industry maintains the position that the ships are not obligated to investigate crimes, nor do they have the necessary technical expertise. It has failed to adopt adequate measures to protect passengers from theft, rape, assaults, and suspected homicides, or to provide the necessary assistance to public safety officers investigating these crimes.
Law enforcement needs to be present on the ships to address these problems. The Ocean Ranger would be a California Peace Officer also licensed as a marine engineer. The Ranger would be employed by the Department of Justice and would be funded by a fee of $1 per passenger per day levied on the owners or operators of cruise ships operating in the marine waters of the state.What You Can Do
SB 1582 has passed out of the Senate and is now in the Assembly. Please call or write your Assemblymember, urging her or him to vote for SB 1582 to provide Ocean Rangers on all cruise ships traveling through the marine waters of the states.
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