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CLIA opts out of Friends of the Earth survey

CLIA opts out of Friends of the Earth survey
For a number of years, the advocacy group Friends of the Earth (FOE) has surveyed cruise lines on their environmental practices, grading the results and issuing a 'report card' which it claims can guide vacationers to choose a 'greener' cruise. Today, Cruise Lines International Association informed FOE it will be opting out of the annual survey.

CLIA and its member lines have always disputed FOE's report card and expressed concerns about what they view as the 'highly flawed methodology used to interpret data and the overall presentation of information in the final report.'

FOE's 2013 cruise report card failed four cruise lines and gave Ds to three others.

The group grades sewage treatment, air pollution reduction and water quality compliance by parameters it sets. For example, it measures air pollution by ships that plug into shoreside power hookups and gives credit for those that 'only utilize low sulfur fuels continuously at levels lower than required by international and US law.'

Writing to FOE on July 3, CLIA president and ceo Christine Duffy stated that to use shore power as a metric is 'highly misleading because shore power facilities with the capacity to supply cruise vessels are unavailable at the vast majority of ports where cruise ships call.'

Duffy also said it is 'inaccurate and misleading to conclude that vessels without advanced wastewater treatment systems are discharging in a manner harmful to the environment.'

The CLIA chief added that while the decision to participate in the FOE survey is up to each individual cruise line, CLIA member lines have indicated their unwillingness to take part.

'The most important consideration is the public’s access to accurate and transparent information, and the FOE report does not advance the public’s understanding in a meaningful or objective manner,' Duffy wrote.

According to CLIA, the industry's proactive initiatives and partnerships with environmental organizations show its commitment to sustainable environmental practices. Operators must follow and in many cases exceed the requirements of local, national and international environmental laws and regulations.

Duffy noted that companies operating the overwhelming majority of cruises from North America publish environment or sustainability reports and she said these provide the public with 'concise and clear information on the environmental performance and initiatives of cruise lines.'

Though CLIA has energetically objected to FOE's methodology and interpretation going back to at least the 2009 report card, it seems the association has finally had enough.

'CLIA members have participated in FOE’s annual survey for a number of years and were happy to provide information,' Mike McGarry, svp public affairs, told Seatrade Insider in an email. 'However, it became clear that FOE’s agenda is to make political statements rather than provide the public with meaningful, science-based and objective information. 

'I think there was a realization that the opportunity for meaningful interaction just isn't there.'