Carnival Corporation: cruising towards disaster?

This map shows all Carnival Corporation ships traveling from 50 degrees latitude and north in 2017. You can click on each ship track to find the name of the ship, its flag state, its operator, the amount of heavy fuel oil it burned, its CO2 and black carbon emissions, and the distance and time it spent traveling throughout the study year in this fragile region. The habitats of several key Arctic species are also provided. Clicking on the habitat layers provides additional information about the animals.

Please note: oil spill data is included. This is from the entire shipping sector, not Carnival Corporation ships. It is included to help show the real risk of spills ships present in these fragile regions. Accidents happen. And they have. Over and over. Please also note that there was no comprehensive available data on oil spills in the Russian Arctic, and as such, it has been excluded.

Another note: habitat for vulnerable orca species north of 50 degrees latitude has been included. The ships traveling along the B.C. coast and Alaska are traveling through critical habitat for endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales and threatened Northern Resident Killer Whales. Orca whales have wide ranging habitat throughout the world. This map only indicates the habitat of threatened and endangered resident whales in North America.

Ships owned by cruise industry giant Carnival Corporation travel to some of the world’s most fragile and important ecological and cultural sites all over the world, but none perhaps as vulnerable as the Arctic and Subarctic. Here, air and water pollution from these cruise ships, as well as oil spill risk, put the habitats of some of the world’s most unique, threatened, and endangered marine mammals at risk. And this can also threaten the lives and livelihoods of Arctic Indigenous Peoples who depend on these animals for sustenance and their traditional ways of life.

This mapping project found that nearly half of all Carnival’s ships operating worldwide are traveling in Arctic and Subarctic regions where the black carbon and other ship emissions, in addition to oil spill risk, present a significant threat to these ecosystems. Many of these ships are traveling near — and some through — critical habitat for key Arctic species. Further, the ships traveling along the B.C. coast are traveling through critical habitat for threatened and endangered orca species, the resident killer whales. A spill from any of these ships could travel significant distances and present long-term contamination scenarios.

Carnival’s ships don’t even have to be traveling through these animals’ habitats or have an oil spill accident to have a significant, negative impact on the Arctic. When heavy fuel oil is burned for ship fuel, it releases enormous amounts of black carbon, or soot. When that soot settles on Arctic sea ice, it darkens the surface, causing it to retain heat – rather than reflect it. That accelerates the rate of ice melt, further amplifying the effects of global warming in a region that is already experiencing it at twice the rate as the rest of the world.

Carnival’s ships are also equipped with open-loop scrubbers, which remove pollution from the air and discharge it into the ocean. You can read more on scrubbers here.

With over 40% of the global market share, and 10 brands in operation in oceans around the world, Carnival Corporation is by far the largest actor in the global cruise sector. Its leadership could set the bar for the rest of the industry. Instead, it is still choosing to power most of its ships with the dirtiest fossil fuel available for marine transportation, heavy fuel oil.