Excessive air emissions in Alaska: lines violating regulations

By ,   August 15, 2015 ,   Cruise Industry

18 notices of violation have been issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) since 2010, involving 48 cases of excessive air emissions in Alaska.

Jason Olds, Environmental Program Specialist, said they had been measured in Haines, Ketchikan, SkagwayJuneau, Anchorage. Others were noticed while sailing between cruise ports. Contract or government monitors had measured ship smoke's density.

The standard penalty is around $37,000 per incident. In March 2015, DEC issued a notice of violation to each of the companies operating the cruise ships. TradeWinds first reported the violations last month, learning of them from filings with Exchange Commission and U.S. Securities. Two of the big lines said they had begun internal investigations.

Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) and Carnival Corp. made public the fact that the state had issued notices of violation in their most recent quarterly reports. However, the enforcement delay raised questions about why it had taken for DEC five years to address air quality issues.

The regulations concerning the quality of state's air monitor the "opacity" of emissions from ship stacks, judging how thick smoke was by how much of the view through exhaust was obscured. When background is obscured by over 20% for a period of time, the vessel can be hit with a violation.

According to John Binkley who heads up Alaska’s chapter of CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association), all ships were equipped with opacity monitors, actually measuring the opacity as smoke came out of the stack. He added that ships self-reported when their monitors detected excessive emissions, but the equipment sometimes came up with measurements, different than human observers.

A number of lines have installed or are currently in the process of installing scrubbers - stronger pollution-control equipment. They predominantly target sulfur emissions and remove particulates reducing opacity.