Ships blowing lots of smoke

Regulators find 15 air pollution violations in 81 cruise ship tests

Posted: Sunday, August 20, 2000

Alaska regulators say theyve caught almost one in five cruise ships polluting Juneaus air.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Friday it is sending notices of violations to cruise lines regarding 15 separate incidents this summer in which ship emissions violated the federal and state air opacity standard.

The violations were found in 81 tests performed. The monitoring program, conducted by an independent contractor, is financed by part of the civil settlement between Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and the state for past water pollution by the cruise line.

We routinely receive complaints about opacity violations, said DEC Commissioner Michele Brown in a news release. These are the first set of readings from that (RCCL-funded) effort.

It was the third time within a year the cruise industry has been cited for exceeding the opacity standard in Alaska. The standard requires that a ships plume obstruct no more than 20 percent of the visible background.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed to fine Princess Cruises $110,000 and Norwegian Cruise Line $55,000 for air opacity violations during the summer of 1999. Norwegian was cited for a violation in Juneau, and Princess for two in Seward.

Notices of violations also were sent to Holland America Line-Westours, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Lines and World Explorer, although no action has been taken yet. Those 13 incidents took place in Juneau, Glacier Bay and Seward, according to the EPA.

Then in June, an EPA inspector reported four ships in Juneau to be in apparent violation. John Pavitt of the EPAs Anchorage office said Friday his report is under review, and a decision whether to issue notices of violation should be made in one or two weeks. Under scrutiny are ships owned by Princess, Carnival, Celebrity and Holland America that were docked in Juneau on June 10-12.

John Hansen, president of a cruise industry association based in Vancouver, British Columbia, emphasized weather, mechanical problems on-board and other factors can affect the density of a plume and the degree of visual obstruction.

Taking smoke readings is a pretty subjective art, Hansen said.

But he said the industry is working hard to phase out older ships with inadequate emissions-control systems.

Theres not an overnight solution, he said.

Among the specific violations found by the DEC contractor:

The Ryndam, a Holland America vessel, had 26 minutes of emissions exceeding the air opacity standard within one hour on July 26, with the highest reading at 100 percent complete visual obstruction of the background.

The Norwegian Wind, a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, exceeded the standard for 22 minutes of an hour on July 21, peaking at 90 percent opacity.

The Universe Explorer, a World Explorer ship, violated the standard for 57 minutes of an hour on July 28, with a high reading of 60 percent.

All of the violations occurred between July 13 and Aug. 15, according to the DEC breakdown. Monitoring is continuing into September.

At the end of the monitoring season, DEC will refer all violations to the Department of Law for legal action, the DEC news release said.

Also, the Alaska Cruise Ship Initiative a joint venture among the industry, regulators and citizen activists will continue discussions about reducing opacity, Brown said.

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