As Viking Cruise line prepares to set sail in the Great Lakes, environmental controversy stirs around it. Head of transport policy of the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, Daniel Rieger, sat down with CBC to explain his environmental concerns. His main worries stem from the heavy fuel oil that cruise ships run on. Even with strict rules governing marine pollution, punishments including hefty fines of one million dollars and 18-month jail sentence, environmental concerns are still prominent. Running on fuel that is 100 times dirtier than truck diesel, ships that accommodate around 4,000 passengers can emit as much carbon dioxide as 85,000 cars.
The Viking Expedition ships will accommodate 385 passengers. Some may point out that while the number is substantially less than the previously mentioned 4,000, it still amounts to a lot of cars. Windsor’s Port Authority president and CEO, Steve Salmons, however, says it makes all the difference. In an interview with CBC, Salmons stresses that “these ships are particularly modern and they burn very clean fuel. The environmental impact is minimal from carbon emissions.”
Environmental concern isn’t the only talk surrounding the new cruise stops. Excitement about tourism has become the talk of the port. Rob Hentschel, Grand Traverse County Commission Chair, welcomes the cruise lines, telling 9 & 10 News that “cruise liners bringing a lot of traffic, that’s great for the local economy, I certainly would welcome that with open arms.”
While some like William Friedman, President and CEO of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority, expressed a similar sentiment to Hentschel, others don’t quite agree. Jim Carruthers, Traverse City Mayor asked 9 & 10 News, “I’m still wanting to know, what is the benefit to Traverse City? They really don’t bring in jobs, they’re doing nothing for housing, so really what is it doing for our community?” Furthermore, he poses questions about the effect the vessels would have on the potential spread of invasive species and if the ship would cause erosion or wake issues in Grand Traverse Bay. Reiger seems to agree with Carruthers, using European port’s economic data to support his claim that tourists don’t bring that much to the port’s economy. Since it’s usually all-inclusive vacations, many don’t spend money on accommodations or food. “They spend really little money in the region,” Reiger tells CBC. While tourists may not spend money, some argue that there’s still economic opportunity with local businesses because they can deal with food, waste and supplies with the ship.
As Amos Wekesa, director of Great Lakes Safaris Limited, told Monitor, “the amount of nature that is available is reducing. But the number of people looking for nature is increasing; so it is important we conserve our lakes and take advantage of them, including rivers.” As far as the effects on the environment, we’ll just have to wait and see.