Prince Rupert port (BC Canada) to ban cruise ships from dumping contaminated wastewater

   January 12, 2023 ,   Cruise Industry

A second West Coast Canadian port proposed a ban on cruise vessels dumping contaminated/acidic wastewater while in port/docked.

Port Prince Rupert (on Kaien Island) is taking public feedback until February 5th on changes slated for 2023, such as forbidding the ships' open-loop scrubber systems to clean their exhaust when burning diesel fuel.

Open-loop scrubbers use water to “wash” pollutants in dirty heavy fuel oil like SO2, heavy metals, and carcinogens from the fumes. Then they flush the untreated mix into the ocean rather than the atmosphere.

The wastewater worsens ocean acidification and makes it harder for marine organisms like oysters, crabs, clams, and prawns to form shells. Also affected are tiny but important floating marine snails, which are a critical food source for animals including sharks, whales, and salmon.

Heavy metals from scrubber wastewater accumulate in the food web, thus harming marine life as well as causing reproductive disorders in endangered marine mammals like southern resident killer whales.

In April 2022, the federal government launched voluntary discharge/treatment guidelines for cruise ships on sewage/grey water (kitchen/laundry wastewater, cleaning products, food waste, grease and oil, as well as other pollutants). The guidelines are slated to become mandatory in 2023.

The new rules of Prince Rupert port on scrubber wastewater are expected to go into effect after considering public comment and when the 2023 information guide of the port is finalized.

Port of Prince Rupert (Kaien Island, BC Canada)

Image: Port of Prince Rupert (Kaien Island, BC Canada)

Last March, Vancouver became the first British Columbian port to limit the discharge of contaminated scrubber water, citing the potential toxic impacts on marine life along with "the risk of pollutants accumulating in the food web and endangering marine ecosystems."

In 2020, Port Seattle (Washington USA) also banned docked cruise vessels to dump scrubber water. Seattle's port authority went further in securing a ban on any scrubber water discharge within all of Puget Sound until research demonstrates it does not threaten water quality/human health in the region.