Write a case study on the Pollution on the High Seas.
A study by the International Council on Clean Transportation provides some interesting statistics on the global shipping industry:
• Ships transport more than 90 percent of the world’s products (by volume)
• Ships release more Sulphur dioxide than all of the world’s cars, trucks, and buses combined
• Only six countries in the world release more greenhouse gases than ships collectively do
• Ships produce about one-quarter of the entire world’s output of nitrogen-oxide emissions (the ones that cause smog)
• Back in 1990, land-based Sulphur dioxide emissions in Europe were about 10 times higher than sea-based emissions, but by 2030, sea-based emissions will
exceed land-based emissions
Pollution from cargo ships is unusually high because they use bunker fuel, which is a tar-like sludge that is left over from the process of refining petroleum. Bunker fuel releases more pollutants than high-grade fuel, but ship owners use it because it is cheap. And refineries are happy to sell it to shippers because it gives them an outlet
for a product that would otherwise not have a market.
While increasing concerns about the global shipping industry are evident, regulating ships on the high seas has always been something of a problem. This difficulty is obvious in the work of the International Maritime Organization, which is a United Nations agency that regulates shipping. The 167 nations that make up its membership have had extreme difficulty agreeing on what to do abou1 the problem of pollution. For example, it
took the group 17 years to agree that the Sulphur content in marine fuel should not exceed 4.5 percent. But the Sulphur content in bunker fuel had already been reduced to
half that level by the time the regulation was passed. One frustrated member of the committee said that it spent most of one meeting discussing procedural details and
the punctuation in its report.
A more effective approach is for ports to set emission rules, since cargo ships obviously have to unload their cargo somewhere. Some ports-particularly those in the Baltic Sea region and in the state of California-have already passed laws that prohibit ships from docking unless they use cleaner-burning fuels. California, for example, does not allow ships that use low-grade fuel to sail within 24 miles of its shores. Ports in Germany, Sweden, and Canada have also set targets to reduce air pollution from ships. But this patchwork of regulations has caused ship owners big problems, because it means that ships need to switch from low- to high-grade fuel as they sail to different locations. Because this process is complicated and dangerous, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners and the Hong Kong Ship Owners Association both think the UN should simply require ships to stop using bunker fuel.
The problem of pollution is not restricted to ships that carry merchandise; there is also a problem with ships that carry people. More than eight million passengers take an ocean voyage each year, cruising many areas of the world’s oceans in search of pristine beaches and clear tropical waters. The tourists and the giant ships that carry them are usually welcomed for the revenues that they bring, but these ships also bring pollution.
A modem cruise ship generates a lot of waste—on a typical day, a ship will produce seven tons of solid garbage, 30 000 gallons of sewage, 7000 gallons of bilge water containing oil, and 225 000 gallons of “grey” water from sinks and laundries. Multiply these numbers by more than 167 ships worldwide, cruising 50 weeks per year, and the scope of the environmental damage is staggering.
Environmental groups see the top pollution-related problem as the death of marine life, including extinction. Foreign animals bring parasites and diseases, and in some cases, replace native species entirely. Bacteria that are harmless to human beings can kill corals that provide food and habitat for many species. Oil and toxic chemicals are deadly to wildlife even in minute quantities. Turtles swallow plastic bags, thinking they are jellyfish, and starve, while seals and birds drown after becoming entangled in the plastic rings that hold beverage cans.
Here again, lack of regulation is the biggest obstacle to solving the problem. Each country’s laws and enforcement policies vary considerably, and even when laws are
strict, enforcement may be limited. Cruise lines should be very concerned about clean seas for their own economic well-being, but this is often not the case. Intentional illegal
dumping may actually be growing in scope. Over the last decade, for instance, as enforcement has tightened, 10 cruise lines have collectively paid US$48.5 million in fines related to illegal dumping. In the largest settlement to date, Royal Caribbean paid US$27 million for making illegal alterations to facilities, falsifying records, lying to the U.S. Coast Guard, and deliberately destroying evidence.
Critics are speaking out against the cruise lines’ profiteering from an environment that they are destroying, but they note that the companies won’ t stop as long
as the profits continue. Technology exists to make the waste safe, but Industry experts estimate that dumping can save firm millions of dollars annually. From that perspective, the cruise lines are making understandable
Questions for Discussion
1. What are the major legal issues in this case? What are the major ethical Issues?
2. Aside from personal greed, what factors might lead a cruise line to illegally dump waste into the ocean? What factors might cause cargo ships to use low grade
3. Are the approaches to social responsibility by the cargo and cruise lines similar or different? Explain.
4. Distinguish between ethical issues and social responsibility
issues as they apply to this problem.
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