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      in the Caribbean


Interview with Michael Crye

On December 10th 2003, the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) and Conservation International (CI) announced the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance (OCTA), a first-ever joint initiative to protect biodiversity in top cruise destinations and promote business practices that minimize the cruise industry’s environmental impact. The ICCL represents14 passenger cruise lines, which account for approximately 90 percent of the North American cruise line industry. We interviewed Michael Crye, president of the ICCL about the decision-making process leading up to this partnership.

Q: What were the primary drivers for the ICCL to partner with Conservation International?

A: We first started working together in 2001 when CELB was researching the industry’s overall environmental performance and its past and future challenges. CELB released its interim report in 2003, A Shifting Tide: Environmental Challenges and Cruise Industry Responses.

The study found that environmental and waste management protocols of cruise lines go beyond prevailing regulations and, for that reason, encouraged the cruise industry to take a leadership role in promoting sustainable tourism. OCTA is a result of that call to action. CI is a responsible environmental organization with a long history of working with business to pioneer conservation solutions that are scientifically, economically and culturally sound.

Q: What is the business rationale for this decision?

A: Vacationers take a cruise to experience the beauty of the ocean and the variety of places they visit. It is in the cruise industry’s inherent interest to preserve and protect these waters and destinations that are the industry’s lifeblood.

ICCL members are committed to addressing the challenges of protecting the marine environment through the adoption of strict standards and investment in new advanced wastewater purification system technologies and enhanced educational programs aimed at passengers, crew and vendors.

An important and challenging area of the OCTA partnership will be working with local governments where cruise ships sail to protect the natural and cultural assets of those destinations, as well as educating passengers and crew about the critical conservation issues, and educating vendors in methods to lessen the environmental impacts of their services and supplies.

By working together, we can develop and nurture a healthy marine environment while continuing to grow all the businesses touched by the cruise industry.

Q: What is your vision for how this initiative will influence the cruise industry?

A: The Alliance is another important step in the proactive initiatives that the industry has taken to protect the environment. Although the cruise industry’s waste standards currently go above and beyond the international and federal environmental regulations for vessels of all types, we realize that more can be done. We are committed to continue to lead the maritime industry in environmental advancements.

The OCTA advisory panel has selected a team of independent science panelists, who will review core environmental issues facing the cruise industry and provide advice as to the best course of action to deal with those critical challenges.

Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the Alliance?

A: I believe one of the biggest challenges will be to find a scientific baseline upon which our decisions to improve technology and standards will be founded. Advanced wastewater purification research and development has been a strong focus for the cruise industry for some time. To date, the combined efforts of the cruise industry and wastewater treatment vendors have resulted in rapid technological advancements and the installation of prototypes on more than 20 ships—at a cost of approximately $50 million. These systems, while capable of meeting high standards for treatment, are still in the early stages of application for general use. The industry is deeply committed and invested in identifying the highest standards achievable and installing equipment that meets those standards.

Another area of significant importance for the Alliance will be to gain the support for the programs of destination partnerships and supply chain best practices. The local governments and vendor participation in these programs will be key to their success in the many destinations that cruise ships operate.

Q: How will these challenges be overcome?

A: Together with CI, we have put together an incredible science panel, which will be addressing the practices on board the cruise ships. Headed by internationally renowned marine biologist De. Sylvia Earle, these experts will review the core environmental issues facing the cruise industry and provide advice and direction on the best course of action for dealing with these critical challenges.

With respect to our destination partnerships and supply chain best practices, we will work with CELB to reach out to communities and governments to gain their support for education and implementation of these very important initiatives.


Michael Crye, President of the ICCL

Carnival Cruise Line
Celebrity Cruise Line
Costa Cruises
Crystal Cruises
Cunard Line Limited
Disney Cruise Line
Holland America
Norwegian Cruise Line
Orient Lines
Princess Cruises
Radisson Seven Seas Cruises
Royal Caribbean International
Seabourn Cruise Line
Windstar Cruises

A Shifting Tide, an interim report on environmental challenges for the cruise industry (pdf, 480kb)
Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance (press release)

International Council of Cruise Lines

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