How Responsible is Cruising?

Relatively little attention has been paid to how responsible cruising is, the industry has kept a low profile on the issues of sustainability and there has been little attention paid to its performance. There have been a few radio and TV documentaries over the years dealing with some aspects of the industry’s performance; most recently Channel 4 broadcast a film, Cruises Undercover: The Truth Below Deck, about working conditions on cruise ships. There have been claims and counter claims about how accurate the reporting was –
arrowtake a look at the comments available on line
Paul Myles the journalist who worked for five weeks as an undercover waiter wrote in The Guardian

‘The ship is a poignant metaphor for wider global divisions; above deck, British passengers who have grown accustomed to affordable luxury, while below deck, an international workforce that has grown equally accustomed to providing the service to make this possible.’
arrowRead more on why Cruise ships are a floating microcosm of our global economic hierarchy

Sue Bryant wrote on Cruise Critic

‘In some regions of the Philippines, from where many cruise ship crew come, the minimum wage is just over £3 a day in the backbreaking world of agriculture, with no accommodation and no food (both of which are provided on a cruise ship). So a cruise job is beginning to look quite attractive to a Filipino worker who can send home over £600 a month.’
arrowRead Cruise Critic Blog

James Smith defended the cruise lines

‘While some of the staff from the Philippines and India are charged fees to join the company, this is not the practice of the cruise lines, but the hiring companies. While these agencies shouldn’t be used, the change of these bad practices will need an industry-wide reform. ………

For the most part, foreign crew members are paid according to their home economy, so when they return home they are able to afford an equivalent standard of living. The free food, accommodation, and flights home weren’t mentioned at all, which is a considerable subsidy for 6-10 month contracts.
arrowRead The Dispatches Special Blog

War on Want ran a campaign on sweatships
arrowVisit Campaign Webpage
In Canada Ross Klein maintains the Cruise Junkie website.
arrowVisit Cruisejunkie Website

The industry protests that these exposes are unfair, but they won’t go away. The industry needs to address the sustainability issues which are being raised about its practises ranging from employment conditions, through carbon emissions and waste management.

Across the cruise industry there is considerable variation in sustainability reporting – see for example Carnival Corporations Sustainability Report for FY 2010 available online
arrowSee Report

ABTA has been scoping out sustainability best practice in relation to cruise operations in order to understand what best practice looks like in relation to sustainability on-board cruise ships. They are working on a set of indicators which will be discussed with the wider cruise industry in 2013,  ABTA is seeking to strengthen best practice and to provide transparency around good practice already happening within the industry.

Hopefully there will be further progress to report in 2013

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Harold Goodwin