Medical Facilities

Inspections performed by the US Public Health Service include an evaluation in the medical facilities of the documentation for gastrointestinal illness surveillance and outbreaks, and the availability of medical logs. If illness has occurred, then proper fecal samples should have been taken for analysis and the results posted. If possible a determination should be made about the etiology of the outbreak and the corrective conditions invoked to halt the outbreak and prevent it from occurring again. Cruise ships are inspected twice a year. They also are inspected if there is an outbreak of disease.

Oily Bilge Water

(See endnote 27, section 4)

Oily bilge water is a mixture of water, oily fluids, lubricants, degreasers, detergents, cleaning fluids, etc. created by leaks from various pieces of equipment, onboard spills, wash water, and wastewater from various pieces of equipment. Bilge water is the most common source of oil pollution from cruise ships. Bilge water may also contain solid waste including rags, metal shavings, paint, glass, and a variety of chemical substances making it a very complex potential source of ocean pollution. It may also include foreign plants and marine creatures that can cause invasive problems in the waters of the United States and overwhelm the existing fish and shellfish population. Bilge water may damage the propulsion systems and constitute a fire hazard. Cross-contamination may result from the impurities in bilge water being mixed with the impurities in the sludge tank which is used for storage of the wastes from the cleaning of the fuel oil before use. Oil can kill marine organisms, reduce their ability to survive within the given environment, and disrupt the structure and function of their ecosystems. It can also damage coral reefs, kill birds, and sicken marine animals.

Oil water separators are needed to remove the oil from the water before discharge into the sea. The United States Coast Guard has found deliberate bypassing of the system and tampering with the monitoring equipment as well as falsifying of records. There has been an improper use of cleaning chemicals and surfactants to try to conceal the oil discharge sheen.

Best Practices for Treating Oily Bilge Water

  • • Utilize secure oily water separators that are failsafe and that have oil content monitors which cannot be bypassed or subject to tampering.
  • • Establish Best Practices for operation, maintenance, and training of personnel to decrease levels of contaminants in bilge water, and teach them how to properly treat the contents without illegal discharge.
  • • Encourage the cruise ship industry to switch to water-based lubricants wherever possible.
  • • Encourage states to pass laws prohibiting the discharge of any petroleum product into marine or freshwater.
  • • Prohibit the inclusion of any hazardous waste into the bilge area.
  • • Ban the discharge of any untreated or treated oily bilge water into the waters of the United States.
  • • Ban the discharge of any ballast water into ports or the waters of the United States to prevent alien aquatic organisms from invading the surrounding areas.
  • • Require that there be periodic inspection on board all ships, whether flying the United States flag or any other flag, and monitor the sampling and treatment of bilge water. This should be done aggressively and without warning by the appropriate authorities. Violators should be fined heavily and if necessary banned from using US ports. This should also apply to sister ships under the same management.
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