Cruise Ships and the Disposal of Waste at Sea
Vacation cruises have become very popular. Approximately 85 cruise ships, primarily based in Miami, Florida, offer three-, five-, or seven-day trips to Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Some of these cruise ships are very large, carrying 2,000 to 3,000 passengers and 500 to 700 staff, the equivalent of a medium-sized town. The large size is a major cause of the pollution problem. The large cruise ships are essentially floating hotels, but unlike land-based hotels they are not connected to municipal water and sewer systems. They carry the fresh water needed for drinking, washing, laundry, and kitchen use in huge tanks. Human wastes from toilets are stored in large tanks that are pumped out when the ship returns to the home port. Nonhuman wastes are stored in much smaller tanks that are discharged each night, at sea.
The nonhuman wastes are called "gray water," a euphemism that brings to mind the soapy water from baths and showers. That is certainly included, but also included is wastewater from the clothes washers for sheets and towels in the ship's laundry, from the dishwashers for plates, utensils, and pans in the ship's kitchen, and from the many garbage disposals. It is an unsavory, smelly mess that is discharged at night in order not to concern or disturb the guests.
22 Chapter 1 Moral Problems in Business Management
Officials in the companies that own the cruise ships, such as Royal Caribbean Cruises, say that they cannot afford to carry tanks large enough to store all of the nonhuman wastes until they return to their home port. The ships add fresh water to their tanks when they stop at islands in the Caribbean or at ports in the Bahamas or Bermuda. But those ports do not have waste treatment plants large enough to accept either the human or nonhuman wastes for processing. The space needed for much larger tanks to store nonhuman wastes would, company officials...