Celebrity Cruises’ Millennium was the scene of a fire drill last month when the Alaska State Firefighters Association met in Juneau for the first time since the 1980s. Firemen practiced planning, operations, search and rescue, victim removal, fire boundaries and establishing a water supply. (Photo courtesy Juneau Empire).

By John Binkley, ACA President

As we bid adieu to another million+ cruise visitor season, the Alaska Cruise Association (ACA) wants to thank you for making Alaska such an exciting, quality destination. We are a true partnership. Our success depends upon your success, and we appreciate the amazing effort each of you invests to make sure our cruise visitors experience the best of the Northland. We also want to thank you for your support of our industry and put you on notice that we may need your help in the days ahead.  

Snapshot of 2008 Season
Number of ACA cruise ships: 28, same as 2007
Number of cruise visitors: Estimated 1,015,000, same as 2007
Season economics: Flat, if not down from 2007; significant reduction in non-ACA ship sailings
2009 Flat, no additional ACA ships
2010 ACA lines working on schedule

Update on environmental performance

In May, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) issued the final Large Commercial Passenger Vessel Wastewater Discharge General Permit, which was mandated by the cruise ship initiative voters approved in 2006. Despite assurances by initiative supporters that the initiative just held cruise ships to the same standards as other dischargers in Alaska, the permit issued by ADEC holds the ships to standards no other discharger can meet – nor can our ships, despite hundreds of millions in investments in new technology to put the best wastewater treatment facilities in Alaska aboard the ACA ships.

We spent months working with ADEC on this permit and repeatedly told them we would have trouble meeting the standards for ammonia and certain trace metals. Last month, ADEC issued Notices of Violation (NOV) to many of our member lines alleging permit violations primarily for ammonia, zinc and copper. These NOVs are based on our self-reporting and in most cases involve very small exceedances.

The permit is very complex and was issued just days before the first cruise ship called on Alaska. As the season progressed, we did better and the number of excedences decreased. That’s the good news. But the other news is we need to change the law established by the initiative. While we have no trouble being held to standards much more stringent than Alaska municipalities, we do think those standards should be based on science and not on personal belief. To this end, we may ask for your help during the next legislative session.

Here’s our record
Number of pollutant tests 3,009
Number of tests we passed 2,971
Percentage of compliance 98.7 percent

In any classroom, that would rate an A+.

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