The House and Senate will shortly take up House Bill 522. This piece of legislation is designed to craft a plan by which small ships can continue to comply with Alaska's high wastewater standards beyond the immediate future. HB 522 is a realization that the cookie cutter that was created for the large ships in the original bill doesn't fit for the small ship and seeks to create a reasonable path to small ship compliance. Contrary to common misconceptions, the provisions in HB 522 do not exempt small ships from wastewater standards. They will be required to meet all benchmarks set under the original legislation. Why then is HB 522 needed?
First realize that the large ships comprised 97 percent of the total wastewater being emitted. The emerging technologies being developed to meet these standards were designed to be installed on these larger and much newer vessels. The market for this technology designed to fit into the dozen smaller (and in some cases 20 year old vessels) does not currently exist. The larger vessels have solved most of their issues by simply adding massive holding tanks that a 140-foot vessel cannot accommodate. As these technologies develop it will be fully expected that the small ships will deploy them, and all small ships currently being designed will be required to build to meet the standards as written.
So what's being done with these older boats? Second, realize that the American built small vessels do in fact meet all federal standards and that all discharges are being treated. It is a fact that the only time that the small ships do not meet the stringency of the Alaska standards is when they are stationary for a period of longer than four to six hours. While the vessel is underway at a speed of at least six knots and off shore one mile small ships far exceed state standards. While the vessel is stationary small ship operators are obligated to provide a best management plan of action, approved by ADEC, to minimize this impact. These include reducing water usage while in port, utilizing shore facilities, and minimizing stationary activity. For example in Juneau, Cruise West guest leave the vessel immediately upon arrival and proceed to check into a local hotel thus substantially reducing the need to discharge.
The small ships, and their unique circumstances, were caught up in the wake of the original law. HB 522 allows us the chance to achieve the standards set for us in a reasonable manner. Your understanding and support is appreciated.
Southeast Regional Manager