Cruise ships face slew of new rules

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Cruise ships, which just a year ago operated under few pollution regulations, now have new federal, state and industry standards to meet in Alaska.

The passage of a cruise ship bill by the Legislature on Saturday added a layer of requirements and fees on top of a federal law passed by Congress in December.

Also, an industry lobbying group, the International Council of Cruise Lines, has made new environmental performance standards a condition of membership.

And individual cruise lines have their own policies for limiting smoke emissions and wastewater discharges, and have made investments in pollution control technology.

''The thing that makes it easier is a lot of these pieces mesh nicely,'' said John Hansen, president of the North West CruiseShip Association, the umbrella group for nine major lines that do business in Alaska.

''In looking at the federal and state requirements, I don't see any conflicts,'' Hansen said.

The bottom line for cruise ships now looks like this:

-- They can't dump raw sewage in Alaska waters, under either federal or state law.

-- They can't dump treated sewage and graywater -- water from sinks, showers, laundries and galleys -- close to shore without advanced treatment techniques that are proven in advance.

-- Their graywater discharges must meet the fecal coliform bacteria limit for treated sewage no later than 2003 under state law, and possibly even sooner if the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decides to act.

-- Their logbooks on discharges must be open to federal and state regulators.

-- They must allow the U.S. Coast Guard and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to take wastewater samples from the ships.

-- They must pay a fee of about $1 fee per passenger to cover the cost of state monitoring programs, including wastewater regulations that will be developed by the Department of Environmental Conservation in negotiation with the industry and other interested parties.

Environmental Conservation Commissioner Michele Brown is already starting work on writing the regulations. Other aspects of the state law are effective July 1.

The $1 fee is expected to raise about $400,000 this year, Brown said. That will pay for two new positions and various contracts. Next year's proceeds from the fee are estimated to be more than $700,000.

Cruise companies also must register with the state for the first time, although Brown said she won't penalize them this time if they miss the July 1 deadline by a few days.

Also due July 1 are a list of interim protective measures that companies will take regarding the discharge of graywater and their plans for handling solid and hazardous wastes.

Industry spokesman Hansen said the companies in his association, which are operating 22 large ships in Alaska, will invest at least $40 million in technology to reduce air and water pollution.

While most of that was coming anyway, the new laws have accelerated the pace, he said.

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