Park Service says nine cruise ships could be kept from Glacier Bay

Posted: Wednesday, August 08, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The National Park Service announced Tuesday that nine cruise ships will be prevented from entering Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska this summer.

Agency spokesman John Quinley said the reduction brings the park service into compliance with an order issued Friday by U.S. District Judge James Singleton.

The decrease affects approximately 13,500 cruise ship passengers this tourist season.

The park service expected to submit the cutback determination and how it will be allocated to Singleton on Wednesday, according to Quinley. Under the cutback, Holland America cruises are being cut by five, Princess Cruises by two, Norwegian Cruise Line by one and World Explorer Cruises by one.

Quinley said Singleton has the power to invalidate the agency's plan. The judge, however, does not have to approve it in order for the park service to initiate it immediately, Quinley said.

The cutback is less drastic than the barring of 32 ships that some people had anticipated after Singleton's decision.

The judge's order caught many people in the tourism industry off-guard because they expected the cuts to begin next year, not in the middle of the tourist season.

In last week's decision, Singleton told the Park Service to slash the number of cruise ships allowed into Glacier Bay immediately in response to a federal appeals court ruling. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Park Service erred in allowing a 72 percent increase in cruise ship entries in 1997 without having done a major environment review. While the court ordered ship visits cut, it left it to Singleton to implement the order.

The suit was brought by the National Parks Conservation Association.

Confusion existed as to whether ship numbers should be cut from the current 139 to 107, the old limit, or whether the Park Service can prorate the reduction over the remainder of the season. Under the first scenario, no more ships could enter the park after Wednesday because that's when the season's 107th cruise will visit the park, said Tom Dow, a Seattle-based executive for Princess Cruises. That would mean 32 canceled voyages.

Under the second scenario selected by the park service, the ship reduction was prorated.

Princess and Holland America, the companies with the largest number of ship entries, said they will divert ships to other glacier-laden spots in Southeast, such as Tracy Arm south of Juneau and the Hubbard Glacier near Yakutat.

''It's disruptive to people, it's disruptive to the company,'' said Al Parrish, Holland America's vice president in Anchorage.

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