Environmental managers issued air quality violations to eight cruise ships on Friday, Sept. 7, for violations throughout the summer cruise season, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
This year’s to-date total of nine air quality violations (one ship received two notices) is the highest number of violations DEC has handed out in all but four years (2000, 2001, 2008 and 2014). It’s also higher than the last three years combined: only two violations were handed out last year and zero violations were issued in 2016 or 2015.
Those Notices of Violation, as they’re called, were forwarded to the Alaska Department of Law for further action. The violations could result in fines as high as $46,192, according to DEC.
It’s up to the Department of Law to issue any fines. Cruise ship monitoring Program Manager Ed White said DEC forwards the Department of Law its own recommendations.
Sometimes ships can catch a break if they take measures to improve their emissions by increasing engine efficiency, White said, or if they’ve consistently met air quality standards in the past.
“We base that on the compliance history of the ship or the reading or if the operator is taking corrective actions,” White told the Empire on Tuesday.
Monitors at cruise docks throughout Alaska measure the emissions coming from a ship’s exhaust stack — the chimney-like protuberance on its top deck — with a visual test of opacity. If emissions are see-through, they’re likely clean; if you can’t see through them, they may contain pollution.
It’s not an arbitrary measure: research has shown that 20 percent-opaque emissions could contain particulates harmful to humans or the environment, White said.
“Opacity is an indicator for overall air quality. So there are things that could be in the emissions. Things like nitrogen oxides or particulates. Things that can be breathed in and can potentially cause some health effects,” White said.
Holland America Line led the tally with four violations from four ships. Princess Cruise Line received two violations for two ships. Royal Caribbean ship Radiance of the Seas was cited twice: once in Ketchikan in on Aug. 8 and again in Seward nine days later. Norwegian Cruise Line ship the Norwegian Jewel was also cited.
A full list of the violating ships includes the Norwegian Jewel (Norwegian Cruise Line), Radiance of the Seas (Royal Caribbean), Amsterdam (Holland America Line), Eurodam (Holland America Line), Nieuw Amsterdam (Holland America Line), Westerdam (Holland American Line), Emerald Princess (Princess Cruise Line) and Golden Princess (Princess Cruise Line).
Most of the violations took place in Ketchikan, where DEC has more monitoring staff than elsewhere, White said. Five of the nine violations stem from the first city.
It can be hard for cruise monitors to take readings in Juneau, White said. Readings have to be taken with the sun at a monitor’s back, which is a tough angle to find at the southwest-facing cruise ship docks in Juneau. It’s easier to do readings in the morning in Juneau, while it’s difficult to do up to Environmental Protection Agency standards in the afternoon. Only one ship, the Golden Princess, was cited in the capital city for an Aug. 9 violation.
White also provided the violation totals for water quality violations in Alaska this year.
Princess Cruise Line accrued the most wastewater violations. The Star Princess and the Emerald Princess, both Princess Cruise Line ships, were each cited twice.
Other ships that were issued wastewater discharge violations are the Noordam (Holland America Line), Sojourn (Seabourn Cruise Line), Golden Princess (Princess Cruise Line), Ruby Princess (Princess Cruise Line), Eurodam (Holland America Line), Volendam (Holland America Line) and Island Princess (Princess Cruise Line).
Messages left with the Department of Law and with the Cruise Line Industry Association of Alaska weren’t immediately returned for comment.
By the numbers:
Cruise ship air quality violations for the last 10 years
2018 – 9 (to date)
2017 – 2
2016 – 0
2015 – 0
2014 – 30*
2013 – 5
2012 – 2
2011 – 4
2008 – 10
*In 2014 DEC issued notices dating from violations from 2010-2014, resulting in a higher number of violations than normal that year.
• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.