Alaska Panel Member Disagrees With Group’s Findings Regarding Cruise Ship Pollution

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Cruise ships can be a lot of fun for travelers who are seeking adventure and relaxation. However, they can also pose a risk to the environment that not many people are aware of. As cruise vessels become larger to accommodate to the growing demand for maritime travel, pollution emissions from ships are creating a negative impact on the marine ecosystems they traverse while on their scheduled itineraries.

Although the need to improve cruise ship safety standards – both for those onboard and for environmental reasons – has become increasingly obvious, the Parnell Administration in Alaska has expressed interest in amending part of the 2006 cruise ship initiative, which had required stricter standards for wastewater discharges.

A bill has been introduced at the governor’s request which would allow a greater number of chemicals to be released into the water. While supporters of the bill say the chemical levels would still be safe, opponents are not entirely convinced that releasing any amount of contaminants into the ocean would be appropriate.

A scientist on the penal who has been charged with examining the level of pollution emitted by cruise ships in Alaska says she disagrees with several of the group’s findings. The conclusions by the panel, included in a preliminary report late last year, were largely responsible for Gov. Sean Parnell’s decision to modify the state’s regulations of cruise ship wastewater. However, marine ecologist Michelle Ridgway said that she was surprised that the bill to amend the safety policies was introduced.

According to Ridgway, the report was supposed to undergo additional review, possibly even public review, before being finalized. While she said she respects her fellow panel members, Ridgway disagrees with some of the findings, including the idea that fish and marine animals are protected through a general cruise ship permit that restricts where and when vessels can discharge wastewater.

Senate Bill 29 had its first hearing last Wednesday before the Senate Resources Committee. According to Environmental Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig, the bill would provide a more practical approach to controlling pollution.

“It recognizes that it’s really difficult, if not impossible, for many dischargers to meet the water quality standards at the point of discharge,” said Hartig. “So they allow a limited area of mixing the treated effluent … with the receiving water at the edge of the mixing zone. “

However, many believe this is just another way for cruise ship operators to get away with cutting corners so they can avoid spending the additional resources to create more eco-friendly additions to ships.

Hartig maintains that wastewater-control measures would still be in effect under the new bill, but not everyone is in accordance with the legislation. Instead of finding ways to avoid making the necessary improvements to improve marine life safety, cruise operators – and the ports which they visit – seem to be avoiding these changes which are undoubtedly necessary.

Unless something is done soon about the pollution caused by cruise vessels, marine animals may soon need to consult with a cruise lawyer of their own to protect their rights.