Skift Take

Despite claims that new technology has decreased the pollution caused by cruise ships, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line continue to get busted for violating the law. Will cruise ships really ever go green?

Cruise lines spend millions on marketing to popularize the aspirational image of beautiful cruise passengers having fun in sunny, picturesque locales on their cruise vacations.

The companies want consumers to forget that cruise ships are enormous vessels capable of causing severe damage to the environment.

Last week, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings admitted it was fined an unspecified amount by the State of Alaska for a series of environmental violations.

“In 2015, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation issued Notices of Violations to major cruise lines that operated in the state of Alaska, including Norwegian, for alleged violations of the Alaska Marine Vessel Visible Emission Standards that occurred over the last several years,” wrote Norwegian in an SEC filing. “We are cooperating with the State of Alaska and conducting our own internal investigation into these matters. However, we do not believe the ultimate outcome will have a material impact on our financial condition, results of operations or cash flows.”

But which cruise ships in particular have been busted when polluting Alaskan waters?

Norwegian, Princess and Holland America

Vessels from Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America Line are the most egregious cruise ship polluters off the shore of Alaska, according to data from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

When asked to comment on the violations, and whether the cruise line has made any changes to reduce pollution in Alaska, a Norwegian Cruise Line spokesperson said she “cannot provide any further details at this time.”

The data, which documents violations filed from 2010-2014, shows that Norwegian Jewel (10 violations) and Holland America Line’s ms Oosterdam (eight violations) and ms Amsterdam (six violations) have been caught disobeying Alaska’s air emissions regulations the most.

Princess Cruises was hit with the most wastewater violations over the same period, followed by Holland America Line and Norwegian Cruise Line. Both Princess and Holland America are Carnival Corp. brands.

Star Princess alone was caught committing a whopping 26 wastewater violations in 2013. Overall, 129 wastewater violations and 49 air pollution violations were levied against cruise ships from 2010 to 2014.

An Uptick in Reporting Violations

According to Jason R. Olds, an environmental program specialist at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the uptick in violations probably had more to do with Alaskans reporting visible pollution than cruise lines necessarily pumping out more exhaust.

“We had more readings in 2014 than any year prior, and a lot of those readings were in response/follow-up to recurring complaints, observed problems, and known issues,” Olds said. And while the violations for 2015 are still being processed, he says this year has been an improvement based on his observations.

Once a cruise line gets a violation notification, which can take place from minutes to a week after a reading is received, the cruise line then has the opportunity to fix the problem or stop it from happening again to avoid paying a fine.


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Tags: alaska, climate change, environment, holland america line, norwegian cruise line

Photo credit: Holland America Line's ms Oosterdam at sea near a glacier in Alaska. Holland America Line

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