Your cruise and garbage

Your cruise and garbage

When you throw something in the bin or your eyes were bigger than your appetite when you selected your favourite delicacies from the buffet, we rarely stop and think of what happens to all that waste.  With the population of ships similar to a small town we produce tonnes of garbage every day.  We can’t just throw it overboard, this is illegal, rules regarding garbage at sea are set by MARPOL, which stands for marine pollution, this is a branch of the International Shipping Organisation or IMO which is a specialised agency of the United Nations.  Ships today are not discarding garbage into the sea and have very strict rules and penalties if found to be doing so.

For years many years the attitude was that the sea was so vast it could absorb anything we threw at it, This was not just global shipping but a lot of pollution also originated from land.  We of course all know that this isn’t true and the issue has reached main stream media in the past few years and rightly so.

So How do we deal with it?

Below the passenger decks on your ship will be a garbage room, which is normally manned 24 hours a day, We have a whole range of equipment here including glass crushers, compactors, food waste collection tanks, and incinerators.


Different areas around the world are given special status and have more stringent rules on what can and cannot be discharged, these are known as special areas and are listed below,

  • the Mediterranean Sea.
  • the Baltic Sea.
  • the Black Sea.
  • the Red Sea.
  • the Gulfs area.
  • the North Sea.
  • the Wider Caribbean Region and.
  • Antarctic Area.


Food waste can be discharged if outside 3 nauctical miles from land and the ship is proceeding on route, within the special area it cannot be discharged unless it is comminuted/ ground. If it is comminuted then within the special area the vessel must be 12 nautical miles from land.  All discharges are recorded in a garbage record book which notes start time, and ships position and quantity discharged.

You will be happy to know that plastics, domestic wastes and operational wastes cannot be discharged.  They can however be burnt in the incinerator but there are restrictions on certain plastics which cannot be burned. The incinerators come under a different section of MARPOL associated with air pollution and have strict rules governing the operation of incinerators and items burnt.

Most of the garbage is compacted, or crushed and stored in a cold room to prevent rotting and landed ashore, I am aware that some of the largest cruise companies also have their own rules which prevent them landing waste in ports were it would go to landfill.

We have all seen pictures or videos of large amounts of plastic pollution this must be a concern for cruise ship companies as no one wants to cruise in a polluted sea, but this waste is originating from land and not from cruise ships, not these days anyway. You will be informed when on-board never to throw anything over the ships side, although this is hard to police, but with so many means of disposing of garbage on-board there is no need to discard anything over the side.

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