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Old friends visited Hobart recently. We took them to lunch during their cruise ship’s brief pause in Hobart, and were interested to learn what they thought about their sea-going experience. Their ship had, I think, eleven decks, and their cabin was at a fairly low level. They are on a modest income so that figures. He is quiet and studious, a librarian by profession, and she is an exuberant nurse. He is a respected consultant on library architecture, and spent the trip working in his cabin. She was out and about, enjoying the experience. We asked them what other Tasmanian experiences they had considered.
They said their ship’s stay was too short to do much, and that their ship’s visit was in part to re-provision after seven days at sea. A disclaimer: neither my wife nor I enjoy crowds, inside or outside, and although we would love to travel on the Ghan, the prospect of making endless superficial conversation with fellow travellers whom you will never see again – a day-long version of the breakfast conversation in a bed-and breakfast – has so far put us off, and we view the potential cruising experience in the same light. But our visiting cruising friends are serious people, whose judgement we respect, and I thought that I should take a serious look at the phenomenon of cruise ships, especially since Hobart and Burnie appear to be favoured ports of call for the foreseeable future.
The cruise tourism sector has received extensive criticism for its negative impacts on destinations. It is dominated by large multinational corporations, such as Royal Caribbean Cruises, Carnival Corp, Norwegian Cruise Line and Mediterranean Shipping Company. These powerful companies are able to dictate terms of access to ports and their all-inclusive model means that little tourist spending reaches the ports that receive them. Cruise ship visits also bring negative socio-cultural impacts despite the brief duration of shore visits. The most pressing issue is the way cruise visitors add to already crowded tourist sites, such as the Piazza Marco Square in Venice. Juneau, a destination of the Inside Passage in North America, has cruise ship arrival warnings.
Cruise ships burn as much fuel as whole towns. They use a lot more power than container ships and even when they burn low sulphur fuel, it’s 100 times worse than road diesel. We need to stop cruise ships dumping large amounts of sewage and other wastes into our oceans. Some is treated prior to release, much is dumped directly to the ocean. A large cruise ship on a one-week voyage may generate 210,000 gallons (or 10 backyard swimming pools) of human sewage and one million gallons (40 more swimming pools) of grey water (water from sinks, baths, showers,
laundry and galleys). They also generate large volumes of oily bilge water, sewage sludge, garbage and hazardous wastes. In addition, they spew a range of pollutants into the air that can lead to serious public health problems and contribute to global warming. The rapidly expanding size and number of cruise ships in Australian waters has triggered a national cruise ship pollution crisis.
Symphony of the Seas is currently the world’s largest cruise ship. Feeding around 6,600 passengers and 2,200 crew on a typical seven-day itinerary requires some 60,000 eggs, 4,400 kilograms of chicken, 20,000 pounds of potatoes and 700 pounds of ice-cream. The list goes on and on – including, of course, the 450 cases of champagne that are brought on at the start of each trip, and the 290,000 litres of drinking water per day. In a period of water shortages for southern Tasmania, this raises some interesting questions. There is no question that some cruise ships bring money to local businesses and to the operators.
Globally, around one third of food produced for human consumption goes to waste. With lavish buffet-style dining currently being a key part of the cruise experience, the risk of excess is high. Ensuring the sustainable development of a cruise destination and the environment comes with very high costs. The major players have to take more proactive self-regulation to ensure a sustainable future for cruise tourism, while preserving cruise destinations and cruise waterways. The onus as well needs to be on the port communities. There is frequently no policy at the local government level to control the impacts of such activity.
The cruise industry will not be going away anytime soon, so it is important to improve a situation that is neither balanced nor sustainable. Ports need the cruise ships as much as the cruise ships need the ports, the waterways need to be maintained in a more sustainable way, and the local population needs to have a voice in the local planning for the impacts of tourism. Now is the time to create international policies and rules that are binding for all participants, especially if cruise ships are going to anchor in sensitive environments like Wine Glass Bay, or Port Davey.
Me, I’ll stick to walking with what I can carry in, and bring out.
John Fleming II
500 words... Jasmine Smith-Browne holds forth on matters close to her heart
The mother of all disasters
When Mother Nature unleashes her force across the planet, she does so with wild abandon and little regard for the lives that are lost or the devastation that is caused. Mother Nature is almost like a culling vacuum cleaner that sucks up anything in her path. Our world replenishes somehow, but the loss of lives is unbearable. Not only for the families of the ones who never come home, but for the world at large. We pull together in disaster times and display human spirit, grieving together and mourning for those who didn’t stand a chance against the forces of Mother Nature.
Looking back over the year of 2019, we see that so many places have been affected. There are on average about 60,000 people globally each year who lose their lives to natural disasters. Most recently, we have had Typhoon Lekima in China, Typhoon Hagibas in Japan, the heat waves in India and Japan, cyclone Idai in Niger, Hurricane Dorian, the Albanian earthquakes, and Ghana floods and landslides. Closer to home, devastating fires burn out of control across our beloved Australia.
Just when we were emotionally pushed to the limit we then receive the devastating news of the volcano in New Zealand that took the lives of many, including some of our own Aussies. What had started out as an adventure from a cruise ship to an offshore volcano hit us all with shock
What made it worse is that unlike gunmen or murderers who we can blame, in this case there was no one except the elements themselves. The toxic fumes and the heat of the steam meant that there was little time for help in what would have been a harrowing end. Our hearts went out to the families of the deceased and we prayed for the burns victims. In a display of collective grief, we sent off the ones who didn’t make it with a farewell of “Kia tutaki ano tatou” which is Maori for “Until we meet again”.
As much as we may feel the need to blame someone for unnecessary deaths, there are times it is just nature gone crazy. The huge increase in population is just one of the problems we have. Houses are being built in precarious places or in the line of fire from the elements. Kansas gears up for regular tornadoes and Asia suffers constantly from typhoons. No matter how many times they happen, people still rebuild in these dangerous places knowing their fate is in the hands of
We are all subject to the devastation Mother Nature wreaks and are not singled out. When we escape these tragedies we need to celebrate life itself. As we prepare for the year 2020, we will look back on the year that has passed and hope we will not have to endure more painful natural destruction. There are absolutely no guarantees, but we move on in life knowing that just surviving is the key to our existence. Mother Nature can show a cruel hand and we are each at her mercy, but we somehow continue on life’s journey, remembering those who did not survive.
Let’s hope our coming year is filled with more positive outcomes for all of us. Happy New Year to everyone.
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