The condition of sea waters and oceans is fragile and concerns most environmentalists today. Marine pollution may occur due to unfavorable alterations. The primary causes for marine pollution are land-based activities that result in the deposition of pollutants in estuaries and coastal waters. Statistics reveal that over 80% of all marine pollution comes from such activities. The pollutants enter marine food chains, gradually increasing in concentration until they reach highly toxic levels. A factory in Minimata, Japan, discharged industrial wastes containing methyl mercury in low concentrations into the sea.
As the chemical rushed through several food chains, its concentration rose up to exceedingly high toxic levels in the body of sea animals. The pollutant gradually spread into the human body through the consumption of fish and shellfish. The incident resulted in the death of 649 people and around 3500 suffered from mercury poisoning. Over the years, the cruise ship industry has developed at an increasing rate and continues to do so. Its dynamic growth registers an eight percent annual growth.
Cruise ships are not required to have permits to dump sewage into the oceans and hence dont comply with international regulation standards. Dismissive of environmental regulations, they are not even required to monitor or report the magnitude of release. So, the government and public come to know little about the amount of pollution caused by these ships. Cruise line ships contribute a fair bit to the process of marine pollution. An average cruise ship carrying 3,000 passengers and crew generates over 30,000 gallons of human waste and about 255,000 gallons of non-sewage gray water each day.
More than 37,000 gallons of oily bilge water and around eight tons of solid waste are released to the water every week. Further, millions of gallons of ballast water containing potential invasive species, and toxic wastes from dry cleaning and photo processing laboratories are dispatched into the oceans. They are fully allowed to release treated sewage and untreated non-sewage gray water including wastewater from galleys, dishwashers, baths, sinks, showers, and laundries almost anywhere they sail.
They are permitted to dump garbage ground into pieces smaller than an inch when they are three miles from shore, and ungrounded garbage when 12 miles away from shore. They can also lawfully release untreated sewage, or black water, anywhere beyond three miles from the shore (except in certain areas of Alaska). Another issue is ship breaking. The nature of materials being dealt with makes ship breaking a highly polluting industry. Materials like asbestos, polycarbonate Biphenyls or PCBs, thermocols and other toxic materials like glass wool are suddenly exposed to the environment when a ship is broken.
Fuel emissions from these ships also leave disastrous impacts on the environment. Ships running all over the world today discharge hazardous chemicals and toxics that can be deadly for aquatic and even non aquatic life. Of the worst reported cases, the Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. was found guilty of routinely and deliberately dumping waste oil, photo processing, dry cleaning, and print shop chemicals into coastal waters of the U. S. Their ships contained concealed piping, designed to bypass pollution treatment equipment.
Impacts surrounding this refuse to die and a significant amount of marine pollution due to the black tar-like oil that is washed onto the beach when massive oil tankers illegally cleaning their huge storage compartments, wash out their holds while out at sea, to save time in port. Not only is the oil a nuisance to holiday makers but kills most species of rare aquatic life and sea birds. An airborne surveillance in 1985 spotted over 64 vessels illegally discharging their tanks in the Dutch sector of the North Sea during 1985.
Reports estimate around 72 per cent of all oil pollution caused by shipping to be deliberate and illegal against a meager 28% in tanker accidents. Another impact is that it hampers tourism, perhaps the biggest civilian business. The most consequential events of oil pollution involve spills of petroleum or heavy bunker fuel from disabled oceanic tankers and drilling platforms, from barges or ships on inland waters or from blowouts of wells or damaged pipelines. Extensive damage is also done through relatively frequent spills and operational discharges associated with coastal refineries and urban runoff.
Numerous serious oil spillages caused by tankers have been witnessed in the past thirty years or so. All of the tankers involved were of the older single hull design. Formidable problems can occur during wars when enormous quantities of petroleum are released into the seas. Because petroleum and its refined products are vital economic and industrial commodities, adversary forces commonly target supertankers and other petroleum-related sources during wars. In the Second World War, German submarines sank 42 tankers off the east coast of the United States, causing a total spillage of about 460,000 tons of petroleum and refined products.
More than 314 attacks on oil tankers were registered during the Iran-Iraq War of 1981-1987. The Iraqi forces damaged five giant tankers and three production wells at the offshore Nowruz complex, resulting in the spillage of more than 287,000 tons of petroleum into the Gulf of Arabia. The brief Gulf War of 1991 witnessed the largest-ever petroleum spill into the marine environment when the Iraqi forces deliberately released an estimated 2. 2 million tons of petroleum into the Persian Gulf from tankers and The Sea Island Terminal, a mammoth offshore tanker loading facility.
History reveals that environmental safety was treated with disdain when in 1967, the Torrey Canyon ran into the Seven Stones Rocks, off Lands End, leaking 106,000 tons of oil onto the rocks and beaches on both side of the English Channel. The mishap severely affected the British guillemots and razorbills and virtually wiped out the population of puffins on the Sept Isles in France. The infamous Amoco Cadiz was wrecked on the coast of Brittany in 1978, pouring 223,000 tons of oil into the sea.
The disaster left the ocean waters ecologically fragile and ruined many French oyster fisheries and beaches and brought death for migratory sea birds beyond estimable limits. An analysis of the Exxon Valdez accident steering into a coral reef in Prince William, Alaska, shows how more than 37 million liters of oil had spilled to form a slick covering 6,700 square kilometers. The ecological disaster brought the needless death of thousands of aquatic animals, including 350,000 sea otters. This is the consequence of negligent handling and inefficient reinforcing capabilities of oil companies.
In recent times, the tanker, Braer broke off around Shetland, spilling nearly 70,000 tons of crude oil off the Pembroke shire coast in Wales. The result was very similar to previous incidents, ending the lives of thousands of migratory seabirds and aquatic animals. In reality oil spills may have devastating effects. Being toxic to marine life, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are the components in crude oil, are very difficult to clean and last for years in the sediments and marine environments.
Marine species that are constantly exposed to PAHs can exhibit developmental problems, susceptibility to various disease, and abnormal reproductive cycles. The Exxon Valdez incident, one of the more widely known spills, occurred as the ship ran aground and dumped a massive amount of oil into the coastal waters of Alaska in March of 1989. Despite hard efforts of scientists, biotechnologists and environmentalists, the incident killed more than 30,000 seabirds, about 1,000 sea otters, and millions of fishes.
Whenever tankers and cruise ships have wrecked or collapsed, resulting in the discharge of massive volumes of oil and chemical products, the causes for the accidents have been more or less limited. Researches and surveys reveal a couple of obvious reasons for the accidents. The first reason was the failure or malfunctioning of machinery and the second was the inefficiency of the ship crew. A range of safety features such as automatic shut-down valves ensures that the risk of a significant oil spill is extremely small.
Statistics reveal that a major percentage of ships and tankers met with accidents due to malfunctioning of machinery or engine failure. An independent organization must be established that would thoroughly check and monitor whether the vessel deserves to out at sea or not, properly investigating the engine parts, body construction, etc. All of the tankers involved in accidents and collapses, were of the older single hull design. Such occurrences should decrease with the advent of double-hulled tankers. These and many other accidents are poignant reminders of complete communication failure between the ship and the naval department.
Another folly is the lack of proper and regular maintenance strategies and the use of old and obsolete technology. Every ship and tanker must possess advanced satellite communication techniques to be allowed to float at sea. The limits to carry people and goods must be implemented appropriately, strictly and specifically. Owners of ships and tankers not adhering to the limits and specifications should be rightly prosecuted by the law. Every cruse line ship must possess efficient onboard waste treatment system, called marine sanitation devices (MSDs).
The shipping company should keep logbooks and correct statistics of their discharges, and should monitor the quality of the waters into which they routinely dump their wastes. Many of the major oil spillages and ship accidents during the past 20 years have been caused, or made worse by human error. Human error can mean carelessness, but it also includes continuing to use old, unsafe ships and employing crews with inadequate training. The crew and workforce of each tanker and cruise ship must be thoroughly trained and skilled to be eligible to work.
The crew, specially the higher authority of the vessel, must be well acquainted with the current communication and equipment technology. The post incident efforts are as vital as the precautions. When the Exxon Valdez wrecked into the reefs of Alaska in 1989, emergency equipment did not arrive quickly, allowing 37 million liters of oil to spill and form a slick covering over 6,700 square kilometers. The delay in providing equipment, both by the company, Exxon, and by the State of Alaska, was unforgivable, causing deaths of thousands of aquatic animals and sea birds.
Every port in every country must possess a reinforcement section that can effectively diminish the aftermath of the oil spill or a ship accident. In this context regular and surprise surveys and checks of tankers and cruise ships should be conducted in ports and mid seas. Oil spills must be dealt with, efficiently and immediately, minimizing the damage and maximizing the survival of aquatic life and sea birds. This could be done through regular airborne surveys to scrutinize the waters constantly. Any incidents at sea should be reported immediately.
There are numerous challenges and obstacles for these programs to be executed effectively and successfully. Therefore they have to be tackled in a very wide perspective. It is incredible to expect all the ship and tanker companies to follow the norms and rules implemented by the law. Bribery and red-tapes are major challenges to the implementation of such a plan. However we make the laws and rules strict, there has to be an honest and sincere effort by each crew member and related official to be conscious of the consequences of carelessness and indiscipline.
In the event of any mismanagement the captain of the tanker or the ship must feel solely responsible for it onboard, taking appropriate action in case of mismanagement. Sophisticated oil spill contingency plans to prevent or minimize impacts should be undertaken. Aerial surveys should be constantly scheduled and an aircraft should be present to be readily adapted to avoid adverse impacts. There are micro-organisms capable of degrading petroleum which includes various bacteria and yeasts. Bioremediation of oil spills can be done by using genetic engineered microbial stains.
The detoxification of the spills can be achieved to some extent by burning the volatile matter. The plan would look more incredible and unachievable if proper support, cooperation and understanding is not associated with the plan. There needs to be a global support for the plan, giving no time and place to the owners of these ships and tankers to go against the law. Every government of the world must actively support the plan and take innovative measure to implement the plan. Its the peoples participation which is the basis for sustenance and implementation of the plan.
A common man/woman can effectively help the cause if he/she rises to the occasion by reporting an illegal incident, whether inside the vessel, at the dockyard or at the shores. Its the civilian who must awaken his knowledge and expertise to successfully tackle the possible outcomes of the disruption of the plan that would eventually not only result in the mass destruction of the natural habitat of millions and millions of aquatic animals and sea birds but his own life as well. It is with these efforts that the rate at which our environmental heritage is being squandered can be slowed down.
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