A Sapphire Princess cruise ship drops anchor for the day off the coast of Santa Barbara (Dec. 19, 2010).

Paul Wellman

A Sapphire Princess cruise ship drops anchor for the day off the coast of Santa Barbara (Dec. 19, 2010).

22 Cruise Ships Set Course for Santa Barbara

Major Uptick from Past Years; Environmental Group Eyeing Potential Impacts

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
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It’s no surprise that Santa Barbara — with its historic sights, pristine beaches, and gorgeous weather — is a popular destination for travelers worldwide. But this summer many more of those annual tourists will arrive, not by plane but by boat, as 22 cruise ships are expected to dock just off the coast in the coming months. In years past, according to the city’s Waterfront Administration, an average of six to seven cruise ships motored through Santa Barbara waters, so this dramatic uptick is sure to catch the attention of not only area business owners but also environmental groups.

With visits expected from Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Crystal Cruises, each ship will dock for one to three days while the majority of their 3,000 or so passengers come ashore to explore, buy, and relax. The cruise line industry estimates that couples will spend around $200 during their stay in Santa Barbara, and the Waterfront Administration said the visits let the city test “the ‘return visit’ notion, where people who come ashore during a cruise ship stop are attracted enough to the community to come back on their own.”

The significant influx of cruise ship visits expected in 2013 — particularly during the months of April, May, and October — is due in part to Santa Barbara’s participation at annual Seatrade conventions and its membership in the Cruise the West association. Additionally, safety issues at Mexican and Central American ports are causing cruise lines to look for new places to bring their passengers, noted the Waterfront Administration.

On top of the positive economic impact the fleet may have on the South Coast, activists worry there is also the chance it could generate negative environmental effects within the Santa Barbara Channel. Based on information gathered by Oceana, an international organization that advocates for ocean conservation, a single cruise ship can generate up to 168,000 gallons of sewage per day and uses the same amount of fuel as 12,000 vehicles. Current regulations do place limits on where and how cruise ships are allowed to dump their sewage — for instance, they can’t discharge waste within three miles of the coastline — but monitoring is minimal, and ships are not required to track or report their discharges.

With the help of environmental watchdogs like Santa Barbara’s Channelkeeper, such regulatory efforts have grown more teeth as the nonprofit works with city officials to more effectively police activities taking place in the waters around these “floating cities.” In addition, said a Waterfront Administration representative, S.B.“requires that the ship’s captain sign an Environmental Declaration promising not to dump any gray water or sewage within 12 miles of the Santa Barbara coast. They must also be underway and making way when they discharge.”

To police these mandates, Channelkeeper volunteers use small boats to collect water samples from around the cruise ships in order to test for any pollutants. In recent years they have come up negative for contaminants. The organization is now also using airplanes to fly over the Channel as ships come and go, taking photos to see if there are any suspicious trails behind the big boats. But even with these precautions in place, Channelkeeper remains concerned about the impact so many cruise ships may have on the marine life in the channel and is seeking volunteers to assist in its oversight efforts. The Waterfront Administration encourages such programs “as long as they respect the vessel’s 300-foot security zone.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Check out Loretta Redd's column on this and how it will lead to the "Disneyfication" of the Santa Barbara Harbor. I believe she writes for the Santa Barbara View now and can be found online via Google. Might be good for business but the harbor is not a port!@

montecitotex (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2013 at 3:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

SB View trolling for page hits again. Give it a rest.

zappa (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2013 at 4:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Loretta Redd sounds right on the mark.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2013 at 4:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Having tourists come to town and buy items will help our local business economy, very few will be on the freeways, very positive

wsburns (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2013 at 5:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You mean buying items at all the big corporate stores and restaurants that now dominate?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2013 at 6 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Does anyone really believe ship management would schedule open water sewer dumping right in front of a port of call?

SBLifer (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2013 at 6:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

To answer SBlifer's query, "yes".

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2013 at 7:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh Ken. If you can figure out a way to bankroll all the mom and pop shops so that they're the only place people can shop and eat in Santa Barbara, more power to you. Incidentally, exactly how many corporate restaurants are there are State Street? That's what I thought.

Also, the answer is "no". Large-fleet cruise ships treat sewage the same way we do on land - with primary and secondary treatment, then discharge the gray water into the ocean. There was no trail of sewage left behind the Carnival Triumph, despite its ailments. Do you actually think or do research before you speak?

sbdude (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2013 at 9:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ken's answer was based on his behavior if he was captain of a cruise ship.

e_male (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2013 at 12:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm sorry I've never developed an interest in sewage.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2013 at 1:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

As a maritime professional i'd like to weigh in. There are many laws regulating the discharge of sewage to sea (MARPOL being the big international one and many federal, NPDES, and state laws as well.) Just because there is a law does not mean it is going to be followed. I have seen many instances, maritime industry wide, of knowing illegal discharges to sea. It is because of this that, i believe it is prudent to have monitoring (by channel keepers, USCG or anyone else willing to step up to the plate) to insure these vessels are following the law. When a cruise ship runs out of tank space to store sewage (and cruise ships have an immense amount of tankage dedicated for this!) they must depart the port of call, at great expense, to deal with this or send sewage ashore for disposal, the latter is not an option in SB. Both of these however are very expensive. The companies running the vessels often put great pressure on vessel management to reduce these expenses and thus sometimes valves that shouldn't be open in port, open and "magic pipes" that bypass processing on monitoring systems appear. Don't trust the crew and officers of these ships to follow the law, make sure they are.

cmetzenberg (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2013 at 3:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Another 10 pounds of sand being shoved in the 5 pound sack. I am so incredibly glad I don't live down in that cesspool!

More people, more crowds, less quality of life.

Holly (anonymous profile)
February 28, 2013 at 11:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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