Last season, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) ran a pilot Ocean Ranger program that placed rangers at least once on each of the 27 cruise ships that regularly operate in the state. DEC recently released its final report on the season, which found “dramatic advancements in waste treatment and management over the past seven years.
“Most ships are approved for continuous discharge from their wastewater treatment systems; therefore, there are no unauthorized discharges,” the report found. “Waste minimization and control have greatly reduced waste off-loading in Alaska … and record keeping is extensive.”
Here are some other observations from the Ocean Ranger report:
- All ships were observed to use some type of advanced treatment system that provides tertiary treatment of wastewater. Many of the ships are certified for continuous discharge under U.S. Coast Guard and State of Alaska standards.
- All the member companies of Alaska Cruise Association operated ships with very clear, well-documented, widely accessible policies and procedures governing ship practices that might result in the release of solid or liquid wastes to the marine environment or engine exhaust stack emissions to the atmosphere.
- Several ships are equipped to accept shore-based electrical power while in port, which can eliminate exhaust emissions from its engines.
- Ships use ultra-sonic vibration to prevent build up of soot in the stacks, thereby decreasing incidences of excess emissions or stack fires.
- The stack emissions log is displayed in graph format to help the environmental officer (EO) review daily emissions levels. It is also tied in with the ship’s alarm system. This procedure allows the EO to compare elevated emission levels with the daily operations of the ship.
- Dry cleaning is performed using environmentally friendly and safe, natural cleaners. Tetrachloroethene is not handled, stored or used on the vessel.
- The medical x-rays are digital, eliminating the production of hazardous waste by-products associated with film development.
- The propeller shaft seal and bearing system use sea water and plastics, not lube oil.
- Steam atomizers are employed on boilers to obtain more efficient fuel combustion.
- Several ships have gas turbine engines that burn bio-fuel.
- One cruise line incorporates a standing Safety & Environment Committee chaired by the Staff Captain and includes officers and supervisors from multiple departments. It meets monthly to openly identify issues and resolve problems expeditiously. Members’ photos are posted in crew areas to encourage communication.
- One ship’s Engine Room was upgrading insulation for cold water piping to reduce insulation volume, improve insulating capability, and reduce pipe sweating of source water contributions to bilges.
- The installation of a smoke stack scrubber on board one ship was completed this summer to improve stack emissions. Performance evaluations are underway through the end of the year (2007) and involve the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the contractors, and the cruise line.
- One cruise line has the EO complete a self-evaluation involving 150 questions related to environmental performance on a monthly basis and submits this report to the corporate office. The report also involves the Chief Engineer and Captain.
- One cruise line utilizes a program of financial rewards offered to the crew who identify the best health/environment/safety & security improvements.
The full report is available on-line at www.dec.state.us/water/cruise_ships