Until the late 2000s, Santa Barbara hosted only a few cruise ship visits annually, but today we see upwards of 30 cruise ships anchored off the harbor ever year.
Cruise ships are ﬂoating cities that generate enormous volumes of waste. Every day, a typical cruise ship generates 30,000 gallons of sewage, 250,000 gallons of graywater (wastewater from galleys, showers, sinks and laundry), 5,000 gallons of oily bilge water, 15 gallons of toxic chemicals, and seven tons of solid waste, as well as air pollution equal to that of 12,000 cars.
Though existing regulations prohibit cruise ships from dumping any waste within three miles of shore, and the Santa Barbara Waterfront Department requires cruise ship captains to sign an “Environmental Declaration” promising not to dump sewage or graywater within 12 miles of the Santa Barbara coast, monitoring and enforcement of these provisions is extremely minimal, and the cruise industry has a checkered past when it comes to environmental compliance.
Channelkeeper conducts cruise ship watchdog patrols on our boat in an effort to ensure that the large number of cruise ships visiting Santa Barbara and transiting through the Santa Barbara Channel doesn’t result in increased pollution. We meet the ships as they enter the 12-mile no-discharge zone and communicate with the captain over marine radio to remind them of the no-dumping rules and to let them know we’re watching, which we believe serves as an effective deterrent.