The State of Alaska yesterday fined Holland America Line (HAL) around $17,000 for dumping untreated grey water from one of its cruise ships.

NPR reported that HAL’s Westerdam cruise ship was visiting the national park a year ago, on September 11, 2018, when a crew member illegally discharged grey water.  Details of the illegal dumping are contained in the Alaskan Notice of Violation. The notice claims that the discharge was a “mistake,” but the discharge continued on for 25 minutues.

The HAL ship reportedly discharged around 22,500 gallons of untreated water into the national park. Cruise ships are required to store grey water until they are outside of Alaskan waters.

Grey water comes from the kitchens, dishwaters, showers, laundries, and bath & washbasin drains on ships. According to the Ocean Conservancy,  gray water discharges into the marine environment “can lead to oxygen depletion, spread pathogenic bacteria and viruses and increase nutrient levels in the surrounding ecosystem. Higher nutrient levels can lead to toxic algal blooms and dead zones that can cause harmful disturbances throughout food chains. People consuming food from the sea can contract a range of illnesses from contaminated waters, which is of particular concern in the Arctic considering the number of indigenous peoples whose diet is heavily dependent on marine species.”

Cruise ships are also prohibited from discharging anything within park boundaries.

The National Park Service also fined the cruise line $250 over the incident.

Grey water is a significant waste streams generated by cruise ships which also include:
  • bilge water (water that collects in the lowest part of the ship’s hull and contains oil, grease and other contaminants);
  • sewage;
  • ballast water (water taken onboard or discharged from a vessel to maintain stability); and
  • solid waste (food waste and garbage).

HAL’s owner Carnival Corporation has been fined $80,000,000 in the last three years for widespread illegal oil pollution and discharge of grey water, oily bilge water, chemicals, and plastic items mixed together with food waste and garbage.

KCAW reported that the settlement agreement was signed by Kelly W. Clark, an in-house lawyer and assistant to HAL’s CEO Stein Kruse. Unlike the settlement agreement approved by Judge Patricia Seitz in the U.S. v. Princess Cruises case (no. 16-cr-20897 pending in Miami), where Carnival CEO Arnold Donald was sworn in during open court and forced to admit that Carnival Corporation committed widespread illegal environmental crimes, the settlement agreement in the HAL case states that the cruise line “does not admit to any, and hereby denies all, of the factual allegations or legal claims set forth herein.”

Last year, we reported that four Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ships were among the ships which violated Alaska’s air quality standards throughout the cruise season’s summer months (June-August) in Alaska.  The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) cited HAL’s Eurodam, Westerdam, Amsterdam, and Nieuw Amsterdam. The DEC also issued wastewater discharge violations to HAL’s Eurodam, Noordam, and Voledam.

In the Princess Cruise / Carnival Corporation pollution case, the U.S. government also notified Judge Seitz that HAL’s Nieuw Amsterdam had been continuously discharging grey water for several years in Alaska (as of June 2017) and knowingly failed to notify the state of Alaska. The Court was also informed that an engineer falsified maintenance records involving the oil content monitoring system on the Westerdam in September 2018.

HAL’s pollution troubles can be dated back to 1998 when it was fined $2,000,000 after it was caught discharging oily water without the use of an oil-water separator.

The $17,000 fine is a pittance given Carnival and HAL’s enormous revenues and tax-free profits. It is particularly disappointing that HAL was permitted to deny that it illegally discharged grey water and deny legal responsibiity for the crime. Grey water is clearly harmful to the marine environment. HAL’s act of dumping it into the pristine waters of Glacier Bay is outrageous. HAL ships should have been banned from entering the national park and its parent company should have been fined millions of dollars.

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Photo credit:

Westerdam cruise ship – Alaska Public Media

Glacier Bay – National Park Service