Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The cost of cruising

The accident involving the Italian ship Costa Concordia has helped to shine a light on the whole cruise industry and not before time.

As oil and gas runs out, travelling by sea (whether in sailing ships or solar-powered ones) could become an enviromentally friendly alternative to long-haul airline flights, especially if we had longer holidays which meant we could travel at a slower pace.  Cruise ships though are in a very different category.  As well as their environmental impact - the amount of food and water they carry, the waste they produce and the need to deepen and widen harbours to allow them to dock - there are also labour rights issues affecting the mainly migrant workers who crew them.  With its high turnover of staff, the catering industry has always been hard to unionise.  When the workplace is floating around an ocean thousands of miles away, that task is even harder.

Nautilus International, the trade union organisation that represents seafarers, has also pointed out the dangers of high-sided mega-ships carrying thousands of passengers with only a small hull in the water, an unheeded warning it seems of what happened in the waters off Tuscany last week.

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