Debt aside, there are two basic pollution problems in the marine environment.
The first is oil products. We all know how disaster can strike and understand many of the effects of a tanker running aground. We all know that ships and pleasure boats should not discharge oil into the seas. We also all know that there are a few, irresponsible people who do this. But do we all know that most of the oil which ends up in the seas of the world comes from natural leakage and as run-off from ashore? Don't misunderstand me. I am the first to say that we cruisers should do our bit to keep the oceans clean but so should others.
The other basic marine pollution problem is that of fertilisers - and toilet discharge is in this category. Nature itself can take care of toilet discharge unless the proportions are wrong. Cruisers are not, other than maybe very locally, causing this problem. Think of all the ships that crossed the oceans in the past (many more than today) with much bigger crews than today's ships and all discharging their heads directly into the sea. That was not a problem as the discharge took place in many different areas and was of such a small volume (even though greater than that of yachtsmen) that nature coped with it without problem. The problem is really two-fold. The first are the coastal towns in many parts of the world which still pump untreated sewage into the sea or have sewage plants which cannot cope under periods of high pressure. The second is due to the use of fertilisers in the farming industry. Farmers, probably as a result of the Agro-Chem business pushing their sales, are using far too many fertilisers with the consequence that they are not fully absorbed by the earth but run off into the sea. The net effect of all this fertilisation, chemical or natural, is that marine plants thrive for a while but then die, as all living things do. When they die they decompose and the decomposing process uses oxygen. Levels of oxygen in certain marine areas are so low that much of the marine flora and fauna has died off in there. One thing blooms though - algae.
So yes, cruisers have their part to play here but should not be targeted by governments looking for easy pray in order to be seen to be doing something whilst avoiding the real problems which they do not want to tackle as they require massive investments to fix and a head-on fight with big, international chemical companies.
The other thing governments can do is to stop using chemical dispersants to "fight" pollution. Most countries, when faced with oil pollution at sea, attack it with chemical dispersants but how naive can you get? The oil is still there in the water column but now a mass of chemical soup has been added just so that the oil will disappear to the eye. Out of sight, out of mind? Again, it is a question of cost. It is easy and relatively cheap to spread dispersants compared to recovering the oil. In fact, it is much like crop spraying. Does that remind you of the fertilising issue?
This world is overflowing with politicians but we suffer from an acute and crippling lack of statesmen. Surely, there is a potential statesman or two out there who can get to grips with this issue or are all politicians spineless creatures who spend most of their time wondering what tie to wear to the next cocktail party or how many babies need to be kissed to be re-elected. If anyone is to blame for the situation it is our so called leaders who are elected and well paid to avoid these situations in the first place.
Aye // Stephen