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Water: Vessel Water Discharge

Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report

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Cruise ships operate in every ocean worldwide, often in pristine coastal waters and sensitive marine ecosystems. Cruise ship operators provide amenities to their passengers that are similar to those of luxury resort hotels, including pools, hair salons, restaurants, and dry cleaners. As a result, cruise ships have the potential to generate wastes similar in volume and character to those generated by hotels. Further, as the cruise ship industry continues to expand, there is an increasing concern about the environmental impacts of cruise ship discharges, including impacts to water quality.

The Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report (Assessment Report) examines five primary cruise ship waste streams -- sewage, graywater, oily bilge water, solid waste, and hazardous waste. For each waste stream, the Assessment Report discusses (1) what the waste stream is and how much is generated; (2) what laws apply to the waste stream; (3) how the waste stream is managed; (4) potential environmental impacts of the waste stream; (5) on-going actions by the federal government to address the waste stream; and (6) a wide range of options and alternatives to address the waste stream from cruise ships in the future.

Download the entire Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report (PDF) (162 pp, 1MB)

Download specific sections of the Cruise Ship Discharge Assessment Report:

  • Section 1: Introduction (PDF) (12 pp, 77K)
    • 1.1 Overview
    • 1.2 Other EPA Cruise Ship Efforts
    • 1.3 Applicable International Conventions and Related U.S. Laws and Regulations
    • 1.4 Federal Environmental Enforcement History Regarding Cruise Ships
    • 1.5 Cruise Lines International Association’s Commitment to Reduce Potential Environmental Impacts
    • 1.6 Possible Options and Alternatives to Generally Address Cruise Ship Discharges
    • References
  • Section 2: Sewage (PDF) (49 pp, 317K)
    • 2.1 What is sewage from vessels and how much is generated on cruise ships?
    • 2.2 What federal laws apply to sewage from cruise ships?
    • 2.3 What technologies are available to treat sewage from cruise ships?
    • 2.4 What are the potential environmental impacts associated with sewage from cruise ships?
    • 2.5 What action is the federal government taking to address sewage from cruise ships?
    • 2.6 Possible Options and Alternatives to Address Sewage from Cruise Ships
    • References
  • Section 3: Graywater (PDF) (36 pp, 240K)
    • 3.1 What is graywater and how much is generated on cruise ships?
    • 3.2 What federal laws apply to graywater from cruise ships?
    • 3.3 Characterization of Untreated Graywater
    • 3.4 What are the potential environmental impacts associated with untreated graywater from cruise ships?
    • 3.5 What action is the federal government taking to address graywater waste streams from cruise ships?
    • 3.6 Possible Options and Alternatives to Address Graywater from Cruise Ships
    • References
  • Section 4: Oily Bilge Water (PDF) (22 pp, 131K)
    • 4.1 What is bilge water and how much is generated on cruise ships?
    • 4.2 What federal laws apply to bilge water from cruise ships?
    • 4.3 What technologies are available to manage oily bilge water from cruise ships?
    • 4.4 What are the potential environmental impacts associated with inadequately treated bilge water from cruise ships?
    • 4.5 What action is the federal government taking to address oily bilge water from cruise ships?
    • 4.6 Possible Options and Alternatives to Address Oily Bilge Water from Cruise Ships
    • References
  • Section 5: Solid Waste (PDF) (19 pp, 126K)
    • 5.1 What is solid waste and how much is generated on cruise ships?
    • 5.2 What federal laws apply to solid waste from cruise ships?
    • 5.3 What practices are available to manage solid wastes generated on cruise ships?
    • 5.4 What are the potential environmental impacts associated with solid waste from cruise ships?
    • 5.5 What action is the federal government taking to address solid waste from cruise ships?
    • 5.6 Possible Options and Alternatives to Address Solid Waste from Cruise Ships
    • References
  • Section 6: Hazardous Waste (PDF) (16 pp, 109K)
    • 6.1 What is RCRA hazardous waste and how much is landed by cruise ships to the United States?
    • 6.2 What federal laws apply to hazardous waste on cruise ships?
    • 6.3 What practices are available to manage hazardous wastes generated on cruise ships?
    • 6.4 What are the potential environmental impacts associated with hazardous waste from cruise ships?
    • 6.5 What action is the federal government taking to address hazardous waste from cruise ships?
    • 6.6 Possible Options and Alternatives to Address Hazardous Waste from Cruise Ships
    • References

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