Q & A

Safety drill

CLIA Alaska member lines have staged oil spill response equipment throughout Southeast Alaska. The program, first begun in 1999, has response teams in many of Alaska’s ports, including Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau, Haines and Skagway, and is operated by SEAPRO (Southeast Alaska Petroleum Response Organization). The equipment is available for response to spills from any source and was used in a state ferry grounding in 2005. The lines pay SEAPRO for the maintenance, operation and insurance for the barges. SEAPRO also has mutual aid agreements with other oil spill response organizations, including SERVS, TCC and OSRI to provide coverage of the Prince William Sound area.

Q: How have EPA low sulfer regulations affected the Alaska cruise industry? 
A: The cruise industry has invested hundreds of millions of dollars, and most ships that call this year will have the new technology installed.

Q: What other environmental issues affect the Alaska cruise industry?
The Alaska Chamber has voted to oppose any new seal-viewing restriction efforts from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). NMFS issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rule Making in the spring of 2012 stating that potential new rules encompass “… the activities of any person or vessel that may diminish the value of glacial habitats for harbor seals or cause detrimental individual or population-level impacts.”

While CLIA Alaska works hard to have as minimal an impact on the environment as possible, there is no current evidence to support that cruise vessel traffic is the cause for any seal population decline. In many areas, issues such as predation, food availability and ice density contribute to population impacts

Q: What is meant by “end-of-the-pipe” effluent limits for cruise ships? How do these limits differ from land-based, wastewater-treatment facilities?

A: Unlike land-based, municipal sewage-treatment and industrial facilities (i.e., mining, seafood processing, oil exploration/production, etc.), large cruise ships were prohibited under a 2007 law from using a “mixing zone,” the area where treated wastewater mixes with a body of water. They must instead meet all Alaska Water Quality Standards at the point of discharge.

The Legislature has since changed this requirement following the recommendation of the state’s Science Advisory Panel. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (AEDC) provides an in-depth explanation of mixing zones here.

Q: What is the status of the wastewater discharge general permit?

A: In 2010, the ADEC issued a new three-year permit. “This permit implements the compromise legislation passed in 2009. It provides a very high degree of protection of our waters while taking into account the economic and other practical constraints faced by the industry,” ADEC Water Division Director Lynn Kent said. “No one will see or measure an adverse impact on water quality or aquatic life as long as the ships comply with the permit. At the same time, we are confident ships can comply.”

Click here for an ADEC Q&A on the permit.