Alaskan advocates call for accountability, clean cruise ships 

As the cruise season kicks off with the arrival of Norwegian Cruise’s Norwegian Bliss in Juneau, Alaska, about 40 advocates rallied April 25 on the steps at the Alaska State Capitol Building asking for clean cruise ships and a reinstatement of the Ocean Rangers program. 

Holding banners saying “Clean Up Cruising,” and “Communities Against Cruise Pollution” advocates underlined the concerns and criticisms they have of the cruise industry. Advocates say that they have increasing concerns about the environmental impacts of cruise ship discharges – impacting the air and water quality in the communities where they dock. 

They also voiced support for the Ocean Rangers program, which places independent observers on cruise ships to ensure they are complying with all rules and regulations. 

Norwegian Cruise Lines currently uses the dirtiest option on the market to fuel their ships – heavy fuel oil, a tar-like substance containing asthma and cancer-causing air pollutants.  The majority of Norwegian’s 17 cruise ships use scrubber smokestacks, which convert air pollution to toxic wastewater that is dumped directly into the ocean. 

Norwegian Cruise Lines is the third largest cruise company in the world, behind Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Group. 

The Ocean Rangers program was passed by Alaskan voters in 2006 and became law that same year. Alaska is the first and only state to require U.S. Coast Guard licensed marine engineers or other highly qualified personnel on board vessels to monitor state environmental and marine discharge requirements. 

This program was 100% funded through a small tax added to cruise passengers’ tickets, and required no state or federal funding. However, Governor Mike Dunleavy stripped the funding in 2019. 

“In spite of their claims to be using cleaner technology, total cruise ship emissions go up year after year. The industry should commit to rapidly reducing their total climate pollution to meet or exceed Paris Agreement targets. Otherwise they are fueling climate chaos,” said Mike Tobin from 350 Juneau.

“The Ocean Ranger program is funded by passenger fees at no cost to the public. Eliminating a program that doesn’t use public taxes to preserve and protect Alaska’s marine waters reflects a callous disregard for the public interest,” said Joe Geldhof, attorney and Juneau resident. 

“Commercial, subsistence and sport fisheries are a big deal in Alaska. Clean water is essential for sustainable fisheries. The Ocean Ranger program originated among Native Alaskan women in places like Yakutat and Angoon. The Ocean Ranger program monitors large passenger vessels that have more passengers and crew than most cities and villages in Alaska, and is an effective way of protecting Alaska’s marine waters.”

Photo credit: Pacific Environment

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