The Norwegian Pearl cruise ship, right, pulls into the AJ Dock in Juneau in September 2018. Emissions are among the many grievances raised by the Global Cruise Activist Network against the cruise industry. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

The Norwegian Pearl cruise ship, right, pulls into the AJ Dock in Juneau in September 2018. Emissions are among the many grievances raised by the Global Cruise Activist Network against the cruise industry. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Cruise control: Activists voice goals for cruise industry reform

Pollution, human rights and community determinism are all on their agenda.

As the large-scale international cruise industry shut down over the coronavirus, activists across the planet have stood up to demand improvements in the industry’s behavior.

The Global Cruise Activist Network, an international advocacy group, held a news conference announcing its inauguration Wednesday, with members from Australia to Europe to Juneau chiming in.

“We need to bring together people all over the world who are impacted by cruise ships and start talking,” said Karla Hart, a Juneau resident who is one of the original organizers of the group. “Probably in March, we switched gears and started reaching out to people.”

Hart and other like minded activists connected electronically, meeting every other week and bringing in other individuals and groups concerned about the effects of unchecked cruise tourism on nature and communities.

“I think we knew we were aiming to do it as a group. It took us some time because we’re a network and not a hierarchical group,” Hart said. “We have a pretty diverse group from people who probably represent the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) range of things to extinction rebellion, who want to stop all use of fossil fuels.”

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Members peppered across time zones around the planet spoke up during the event.

“To resume, cruise ships must be socially and environmentally responsible,” said Jana da Masto, an activist in Venice, Italy, which gets more than 2 million passengers each year. “This provides a road map for that transition.”

The hard reset, rebuilding an industry that’s been thoroughly shattered into something healthier, cleaner and more friendly to its communities after the coronavirus pandemic has been a resounding theme.

“In Antwerp, they refuse to let cruise ships into the center. That is a good start,” said Hadewig Kras, an activist in Belgium. “Let us put pressure on the cruise industry. Let’s not go back to normal after COVID-19. Let’s change for the better.”

The movement comes alongside lawsuits and, in some cases, criminal charges that have been levelled against cruise companies worldwide for their mishandling of the pandemic. In one case, said Marie Paulos, an activist in Australia, an outbreak linked to the Ruby Princess in Sydney lead to 900 confirmed cases and 28 deaths.

“This was our first shot over the bow letting the industry know. Individually, a number of the communities represented are engaged with various lawsuits,” Hart said.

No one is welcoming the coronavirus, members said, but exposing its effects on the coastal communities has been eye opening.

“It brought the first summer with clean ocean breezes,” said Marg Gardiner, an activist in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. “The industry is not healthy for our community.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757)621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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