Big cruise ships quietly leave destruction in their wake

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

ISABELLE SINIBALDI, Channels Staff

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Cruise ships are a menace to this community.

The ships have been increasingly docking in Santa Barbara since 2010. There have been six ships in already this season and eight more are coming to dock off of Leadbetter Beach before the season is over in November.

Each year the ships bring in an estimated $2.4 million to the local economy. With the city’s economy being almost entirely funded by tourism, the people of Santa Barbara are relatively accustomed to tourist traffic. However, the costs of increased tourism from cruise ships is causing problems for locals and is having devastating effects on the environment.

Each ship can hold a massive amount of people and some of the bigger ships can even comfortably accommodate up to 4,963 passengers.

After docking in front of City College, travelers are then swarmed by the welcome wagon of tour busses, cabs, wine tours and various other attractions.

The construction taking place on Cabrillo Street is already enough of an inconvenience for students and faculty that commute to City College. The increased traffic resulting from these large crowds of visitors during the fall cruise season is incredibly frustrating because it barricades the entire street when people are trying to get to work or school.

What is even more concerning than the inconvenience of additional traffic is that these ships are causing incredible long-term harm to the local environment.

One of the 14 national marine sanctuaries just so happens to be only six nautical miles off of our very own shores. The Channel Islands National Park was granted special protection status more than 30 years ago and is home to many native plants and animals, so protecting this sanctuary is crucial.

According to the Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, a cruise ship in port will produce the air pollution equal to 12,000 cars from burning fuel and garbage. During incineration of the garbage and fuel, toxic fumes are released into the air. The pollution can directly affect the air quality of surrounding areas, and especially including City College because of how close the ships dock to campus.

The water isn’t safe from the environmental mayhem either.

Everyday cruise ships dump 285,000 gallons of waste into the ocean. 5,000 gallons of bilge water, the oily water that collects at the bottom of the ship, 30,000 gallons of sewage and 250,000 gallons of greywater, the water from sinks, showers and laundry, are all dumped into the ocean.

The ships that dock off the coast are causing irrevocable harm by polluting the water in a protected marine sanctuary, simply to increase tourism in a town that isn’t exactly hunting for visitors.

Santa Barbara County’s tourism industry makes $1.4 billion annually and would continue to flourish even without these ocean liners, which provide only a small fraction of the annual tourism revenue.

If this wasn’t enough cause for concern, every one of the cruise ship liners docking off of the coast have failing environmental reports according to Friends of the Earth (FOE) that grade the ships based on sewage treatment, water quality, air pollution reduction and transparency.

The Princess cruise lines which has 10 ships docking in Santa Barbara this season received a C overall, the Celebrity cruises which has one ship docking and the Royal Caribbean Int’l cruise line which has three ships docking both received a D.

These low scores indicate that the ships are failing to meet the requirements necessary to prevent serious harm to the environment. To make matters worse, all of the cruise lines coming to Santa Barbara this season have worse reports this year than in 2014.

This shows that the cruise liners don’t care about the protection of a marine sanctuary and based on the data, will continue to pollute it if the town continues to permit them docking off of Leadbetter Beach.

The Santa Barbara coast has taken enough of an environmental beating with the Refugio oil spill and doesn’t need any more toxic waste being dumped anywhere near it. The town and local tourist traps that are benefiting from the destruction of a protected marine sanctuary wouldn’t suffer for money without the cruise ships. The tourist industry in Santa Barbara is booming and it could do just fine without inconveniencing the locals and destroying the environment for profit.

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