This past week, I received information from a reader of Cruise Law News who lives in Bergen Norway. He explained that the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) is using drones equipped with measuring instruments to test sulphur levels in ship emissions.

There is an article in the Maritime Authority’s latest publication, Navigare, regarding this issue. Translated, the article states “. . . a drone with measuring instruments was operated from the bridge of the Coast Guard vessel KV Tor. In the course of a week or so at the beginning of June, the drone was manoeuvred into exhaust discharge from several ships in the area and details of sulphur content immediately appeared on a data screen on board the Coast Guard vessel. The highest concentration was measured on the Portuguese flagged cruise ship Astoria as it was entering the harbour of Bergen.”

The NMA states that it is using the drone technology to hunt “sulphur sinners.”

The drones are owned by the Norwegian Coast Guard whereas the detectors are owned by the NMA.

An article in Bunkerspot which was published today states that the Norwegian Maritime Authority has carried out 205 inspections to check sulphur content in emissions from ships. Five violations were uncovered the ships received penalties of between $30,500 and $73,000.

As the IMO .5% sulphur limitation comes into effect in 2020, there will be an increasing number of cruise ships which violate the international restrictions on the amount of sulphur in fuel as well as the emission standards in states such as Alaska.

Today, I received a photograph (at top of this article) taken by a crew member which shows the exhaust plumes from the Norwegian Jewel and the Radiance of the Seas (as well as the Explorer of the Seas, obscured) in Skagway, Alaska. These cruise ships utilize scrubbers, rather than switching to cleaner but more expensive low-sulphur fuel. As you can see, the steam ends and the blue shaded exhaust emissions, which contain solid particulate matter, is evident. Alaska uses a subjective opaqueness test which is subject to a wide variety of non-objective interpretations. Cruise ship supporters often falsely claim that the cruise ship emissions are just steam from the ship’s stacks as opposed to harmful non-combustible particulate matter. Drones with sulphur detection systems will go a long way to objectively collect data in order to hold cruise ships accountable for violating air pollution laws and regulations.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued air quality violations to eight cruise ships and water quality violations to nine cruise ships last week, according to the Juneau Empire.

In an article by Kevin Gullufsen, the newspaper reported that four Holland America Line (HAL) cruise ships, two Princess Cruises ships, and one cruise ship operated by Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and one ship operated by Royal Caribbean violated Alaska’s air quality standards throughout the cruise season’s summer months (June-August).

Alaska’s DEC cited HAL’s Eurodam, Westerdam, Amsterdam, and Nieuw Amsterdam; Princess’ Emerald Princess and Golden Princess; NCL’s Norwegian Jewel; and Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas (which was cited twice).

Last year, the DEC determined that NCL’s Norwegian Jewel and HAL’s Amsterdam violated Alaska’s air standards.

The violations reportedly could result in fines as high as $46,192 per cruise ship.

The manager of Alaska’s cruise ship emissions monitoring program told the Juneau Empire that: “opacity is an indicator for overall air quality. So there are things that could be in the emissions. Things like nitrogen oxides or particulates. Things that can be breathed in and can potentially cause some health effects.”

Just last week in another article by Kevin Gullufsen, the Juneau Empire reported that “exhaust emissions poured from the Norwegian Pearl’s exhaust stack” as the NCL cruise ship was docking in Alaksa. The DEC has not yet announced whether the Norwegian Pearl violated Alaska’s air quality standards.

A few days later, a Canadian resident filmed the same NCL cruise ship spewing emissions in Victoria and posted the film on Twitter, which you can see below.

The DEC also found that nine cruise ships violated Alaska’s water quality standards this summer, according to the Juneau Empire.

Five Princess cruise ships violated water quality standards, including the Emerald Princess, Island Princess, Golden Princess, Ruby Princess and Star Princess.  The Star Princess and the Emerald Princess violated the water standards twice.

The DEC also issued wastewater discharge violations to HAL’s Eurodam, Noordam, and Voledam, as well as Seabourn Cruise Line’s Sojourn.

A month ago, we reported that Princess Cruises’ Star Princess recently discharged sludge from its exhaust system scrubbers in the port of Ketchikan, according to the city of Ketchikan. The discharge was originally reported by KRBD Community Radio. KRBD reported the Star Princess’ discharge and a similar discharge from the Golden Princess while the ship was in Ketchikan.

As shown by photographs (above and on our Facebook page, courtesy of the city of Ketchikan), the sludge polluted the waters of Ketchikan and fouled the port facilities where the Princess cruise ship were berthed. The DEC has not yet announced that these particular discharges violated Alaska’s water standards.

Princess denied the reports, claiming that “our experts believe what was viewed and photographed is most likely sea foam discolored by natural microorganisms such as algae in the seawater, which is commonly experienced in northern climates in the summer season.”

Alaska cited two cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises for violating both air and water standards – the Emerald Princess and Golden Princess.

The air violations by HAL, Princess and Royal Caribbean and the water violations by HAL and Princess all involved pollution by cruise lines which have pleaded guilty to environmental violations and lying to the U.S Coast Guard. Princess was the latest cruise line to have pleaded guilty to such crimes and lying to federal agencies, resulting in a fine of $40,000,000.  Federal prosecutors found that the Star Princess and the Golden Princess were in the middle of Princess’ widespread, ongoing schemes to pollute and lie about it.

Princess appears to be in direct violation of the guilty plea agreement (where it promised not to commit further violations of international, federal, state, or local environmental laws) which it entered into with the federal government in December of 2016. Whether the federal government does anything about Princess’ continuing pattern of pollution is another matter.

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September 13, 2018 Update: Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation stated today that the DEC issued wastewater citations to HAL for “unauthorized discharge of untreated graywater” from the Noordam. It cited Princess Cruises for “unauthorized discharge of treated graywater” from the Star  Princess.  The DEC’s notices of violations issued for water standards were all related to unauthorized untreated graywater or treated mixed graywater and sewage, in violations of Alaska’s wastewater discharge permit. These are not for scrubber washwater discharges.

Photo credits: Top – Norwegian Pearl in Juneau / Photo credit Tim Olson / KTOO Public Radio; middle – city of Ketchikan via KRBD Community Radio.

Last week, a senior vice president of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) spoke to the residents of Rockland, Maine, in an effort to try and convince them that cruise lines will be respectful of Rockland’s environment.

We wrote about the meeting in our article titled CLIA visits Rockland.

Several residents brought to my attention a claim made by Brian Salerno, CLIA’s Senior Vice President of Maritime Affairs, that the sludge from cruise ship smokestack scrubbers (designed to reduce emissions, primarily sulfur),  is stored onboard and offloaded, allegedly, only at facilitates ashore. He promised that the cruise industry would not dump the sludge overboard,  where the particulate matter and sulfur sludge obviously would pollute the water and foul the local beaches and port facilities.

The CLIA representative said that the cruise ship scrubber processing equipment “ultimately collects sludge” which “has to be disposed of properly ashore.”

You can hear Mr. Salermo make these precise statements to the Rockland residents here.

As I suspected, the CLIA representative’s comments appear to be patently false.

As cruise expert Professor Ross Klein points out on his CruiseJunkie site, a cruise ship recently (just last week) discharged scrubber sludge into the state waters of Alaska.  Professor Klein cites the recent article by KRBD Community Radio in Ketchikan, Alaska which reported that on July 23rd, port personnel from the City of Ketchikan observed discharge coming from the exhaust system scrubbers on the Star Princess cruise ship when it was at a berth in the port in Ketchikan.  This sludge discharge followed complaints by the public of an earlier discharge from the Golden Princess cruise ship. The city directed the ships to cease discharging scrubber processing waste while in port.

You can see a photograph of the sludge discharged in port here.

These actions directly contradict the statements by CLIA that it never discharges sludge from smokestack scrubbers into the water and, further, that CLIA cruise ships discharge nothing while a ship is in or near port.  Mr. Salerno made a point of claiming that cruise lines promise not only to comply with federal and international pollution regulations but they claim to always exceed these standards. He claimed that this is a mandatory CLIA requirement and a condition of membership in the cruise trade organization.

It should be noted that not only did cruise ships recently discharge scrubber sludge in the local waters of Alaska but the discharge occurred from cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises which was involved in prior incidents of widespread illegal discharges.  Princess of course, is the cruise line which illegally discharged oily waste from its fleet of cruise ships for nearly a decade and was fined $40,000,000 by the DOJ. (Princess Cruises, owned by parent company Carnival Corporation, of course, remains a member of CLIA).  The Star Princess and the Golden Princess (among other cruise ships operated by Princess) were both implicated in Princess’ notorious use of “magic pipes” to circumvent the oily water separator and oil content monitors in the required pollution prevention equipment.

The Port and Harbors director in Ketchikan informed KRBD that the discharge from scrubbers may technically be permitted by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, although the discharge may have violated the state water quality regulations of Alaska.

CLIA made a big deal during its meeting with the residents of Rockland of stating that CLIA promised not only to comply with U.S. and international pollution standards but to never discharge anything within the state territorial waters where it sails its cruise ships.

This is reminiscent of an incident in 2003 when a cruise ship operated by Crystal Cruises dumped around 35,000 gallons of grey water, sewage, and bilge water in a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay. Crystal had promised earlier not to foul the marine sanctuary’s waters.

According to the L.A. Times, Crystal said that it didn’t have to report the incident to authorities because it broke no laws. It is “perfectly legal” under maritime laws to discharge even untreated wastewater more than 12 miles offshore, and the ship was 14 miles offshore at the time, said a Crystal spokesperson, Mimi Weisband.

“We didn’t break any law,” Weisband said. “We did break a promise.”

The city of Monterey thereafter banned all Crystal cruise ships for life.

The residents of Rockland would be wise to learn a lesson from Monterey 15 years ago and from Ketchikan just last week.

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Photo credit: Crystal Harmony – rpieket – CC BY 2.0, commons / wikimedia; Scrubber sludge – City of Ketchikan.

The Cruise Line Industry Association (CLIA) attended a town hall type of meeting in Rockland, Maine last Friday, July 27th. Brian Salerno, CLIA’s Senior Vice President of Maritime Affairs, was tasked by CLIA to try and convince the local Rockland residents that cruise lines were respectful of Rockland’s environment.

I was not at the meeting but several people who were present at the City Hall Chambers asked me what I think about CLIA’s claim that it is committed to protecting the air and water in the locations where its member cruise ships sail and unload thousands of their guests.

My response is that cruise lines, the likes of Carnival, NCL or Royal Caribbean, can’t be trusted. After all, they are all, literally, corporate felons with histories of lying about environmental pollution to the Coast Guard and the ports where they do business.

History Has a Tendency to Repeat Itself

In 2002, Carnival pled guilty to numerous felonies for discharging oily waste into the sea. Carnival reportedly routinely falsified its oil record books in order to conceal its illegal practices. The U.S. Government leveled a $18,000,000 fine and placed Carnival on probation.

In 2002, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) also pled guilty to the felony of routinely circumventing its oily water separator, dumping oily bilge directly into the ocean on a regular basis, and falsifying its record keeping. NCL admitted that it engaged in a practice of “systematically lying to the United States Coast Guard over a period of years.” The DOJ issued a fine of only $1,500,000, primarily because NCL admitted its wrongdoing, rather than continuing to lie and scheme like Carnival.

Starting in the late 1990’s, the U.S. Coast Guard caught Royal Caribbean engaged in widespread dumping of oil and chemicals. The DOJ fined the cruise line $1,000,000. After Royal Caribbean was caught repeatedly illegally dumping oily discharges and chemicals and lying about it, the DOJ fined it $8,000,000 and then fined it an additional $18,000,000 for a total of $27,000,000.

Carnival’s subsidiary brands have not fared any better than the parent company. In 1998, Holland America Line was fined $2,000,000 after it was caught discharging oily water without the use of an oil-water separator. And of course more recently (in December of 2016), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fined Carnival subsidiary Princess Cruises a record $40,000,000 for pollution and trying to cover it up.

You can also consider trusting an industry where cruise ships often use the oceans as a place to discard plastic rubbish bags, as shown in this video a concerned crew member sent me from a MSC cruise ship.

You Can’t Get Kicked Out of this Club

It is with this background, I am responding to  several residents who asked me about Mr. Salerno’s claim, reported in the Penoscob Bay Pilot, that CLIA has the authority to expel members from the organization who do not abide by relevant environmental regulations.

But that’s hardly true. Consider the recent wide-spread pollution where Princess plead guilty to multiple felony charges of illegally dumping oil-contaminated waste from the Caribbean Princess, Star Princess, Grand Princess, Coral Princess and Golden Princess cruise ships which sailed to numerous U.S. states (Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia) and two territories (U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico). According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Caribbean Princess had been illegally discharging oil since 2005 using bypass equipment, sometimes called a “magic pipe,” to circumvent pollution-prevention equipment that separates oil and monitors oil levels in the ship’s water.

You can read the disturbing facts and the cruise line’s decade-long deception in the article titles Deliberate Dumping, Cover-Up and Lies: DOJ Fines Princess Cruises $40,000,000.

If there ever were a compelling reason to oust a cruise line from CLIA, it was Princess’ outlandish pollution and even more outrageous lies and cover up. CLIA chose to do nothing.

How Do Cruise Lines Handle Sludge?

Mr. Salerno also claimed at the meeting in Rockland that all sludge from cruise ship smokestack scrubbers (designed to reduce emissions, primarily sulfur) is held onboard and offloaded ashore only at designated facilitates ashore.  I know that the cruise industry previously discharged the sludge at sea, a nasty practice which substantially increases the presence of carbon dioxide.  And I have a hard time believing that the cruise lines would have changed their practice without there being a law requiring it.

I would like to hear from crew members with knowledge regarding this issue. Perhaps an environmental officer can communicate with me. We promise to keep all such communications with concerned employees confidential.

How do the cruise ships really handle sludge?

It seems that the good people of Rockland deserve a straight-forward response.

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading: Royal Caribbean Treats Rockland Like a $1 Store.

Listen to an audio of the meeting here.

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Photo credit: Reproduced from an original postcard published by the Hugh C. Leighton Company, Portland, Maine, Public Domain, commons / wikimedia.

 

 

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth JamaicaA number of Royal Caribbean crew members have contacted me complaining that they don’t feel safe because of ongoing construction on the Freedom of the Seas to install an advanced emission purification system (AEP), also known as a “scrubber system.”

Contractors from Harris Pye Engineering have been aboard the cruise ship retrofitting the ship with the AEP system. Royal Caribbean routinely uses cheap fuel with high-sulphur levels. Instead of using expensive low-sulphur fuel, the cruise line made a decision to install the AEP scrubber equipment in and around the engine and exhaust systems in order to try and comply with new air emission standards of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

This type of work is routinely done when a cruise ship is not in service, but in dry dock when passengers are not aboard for safety reasons. There is a risk of fire and attendant danger of potential injury during the AEP installation.

One of the crew members sent me a copy of a letter that Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley sent to the employees on the ship shortly after the fire. The crew member, who wishes to stay anonymous to avoid being terminated, feels that the letter is misleading.

The cruise CEO says that the fire was allegedly contained within the ship’s mechanical spaces.The crew members who I have communicated with say that is absolutely not true. The fire started down near the engine and exhaust system and spread from the mechanical spaces up to the top deck. The fire was clearly not contained. Photos confirm this and show flames actually burning through the top and erupting so that onlookers could see the exhaust superstructure on fire from ashore.

The crew members question their safety and the safety of their guests while this work is ongoing. Receiving a letter from a Miami cruise executive, which is inconsistent with the truth as they observed it on the ship, just increases their concerns.

Have a thought? Please leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.

See: Photographs of the fire damages here.

Watch: Video of the fire here.

Read: The Royal Caribbean “Small Fire” Hoax.

Photo Credit:  Raymond Bower via Facebook

Freedom of the Seas Fire Falmouth Jamaica