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By Susan Milne

This article was originally printed in the January 2002 edition of the Alaskan Southeaster Magazine.

Preserving the pristine beauty which characterizes Alaska is of foremost importance to people who live and work in this vast, largely uninhabited state. Cruise lines must follow a host of maritime regulations, federal and state laws as well as the industry's own international standards, to preserve the sea and the ports they visit around the world, as well as in Alaska.

In the battle for the environment, cruise lines are employing programs for recycling and the control of garbage disposal and waste emissions. They are designing ships with the environment in mind. Most importantly, they have found an ally in new enviro-friendly technologies for propulsion, power and the processing of gray and black waste water.

Environmental Programs

Cruise lines have developed environmental programs on board their vessels in compliance with environmental standards and laws set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships at Sea (MARPOL), the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL), various maritime classification societies, as well as Federal and State laws.

Program's like Crystal Cruises' "Crystal Clean", enlist passenger cooperation in anti-litter efforts. Passengers see the on board programs in action with such things as recycling bins alongside waste bins , biodegradable golf balls and packaging of in-cabin toiletries however the cruise line's environmental policies go well beyond these initiatives encompassing all aspects of ship operations.

In 1993, Princess became the first cruise line to appoint an environmental expert to a full-time senior management position. The environmental health program at Princess and parent company, P&O Cruises, is designed to actively monitor sea and land based environmental policies and practices. Comprehensive education and training programs for all crew members, to prevent inadvertent violations of environmental policies, are a major directive of the environmental health program, named "Planet Princess".

Holland America Line earned a reputation as "the spotless fleet" back in the early days of transatlantic crossings. (The line dates back to 1873.) Over the years HAL has expanded its program to include protection of the environment. A pioneer in Alaska cruising, the line implemented MARPOL standards for garbage processing and disposal three years before they became law.

Beginning In 2001, all HAL ships operating in Alaska had an additional second engineer to provide oversight on all environmental matters, including bilge waste management, emissions, garbage handling, and wastewater processing.

Safer, Cleaner Ship Designs

Behind the scenes of these glamorous vessels are engineering departments, on board and on land, implementing new designs and technology to make ships safe and reduce the chance of harming the environment.

Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Spirit is a good example of a new vessel designed to reduce the possibility of pollution. The first of the line's Spirit class vessels, Carnival Spirit entered service in April 2001. Returning for her second season in Alaska in 2002, the 88,500-ton ship carries 2,124 passengers.

On board the bilge water spaces are isolated, reducing the possibility of tainting water with oil. Fuel tanks have a double hull-like protection, reducing the possibility of rupture should there be a grounding. New food waste processing and wastewater treatment systems have also been installed. (Carnival's fleetwide program of waste-management calls for solid waste to be processed and incinerated on board or sent to a shoreside facility for treatment, recycling or disposal.) As well, care is taken in the selection of refrigerants and paints used on board to be sure they are environmentally friendly.

The Princess fleet for Alaska, 2002 comprises the Regal, Sun, Sea, Dawn, Ocean and Star Princesses . Princess is building all its ships to high environmental standards and they have retro-fitted existing ships with state-of-the-art waste management and garbage disposal technology including incinerators, compactors, shredders and food processors. Princess also has a zero dumping policy whereby all non-biodegradable garbage is either incinerated on board, or landed ashore.

Engines for the New Millennium

Two new engine designs are in use on board ships sailing to Alaska.

Carnival Spirit is the first cruise ship to feature the new "smokeless" enviroengine, developed by Carnival Corporation in partnership with the Finnish engine manufacturer, Wartsila. The new technology reduces visible emissions and enhances fuel efficiency. It is in use on one of the six engines and a second will be modified once the system is perfected. All six engines meet MARPOL's rules for nitrogen oxide emissions that will become a requirement in the future.

Technically, the enviroengine is a state-of-the-art, four-stroke common-rail injection engine with no visible smoke. Benefits include lower fuel consumption, lower nitrogen oxide and ability to use different nitrogen oxide ratings, no visible smoke at any load, ability to start the engine without visible smoke, load cycling without smoke and lower maintenance cost.

Celebrity's gts Infinity and newest ship, gts Summit along with RCI's gtv Radiance of the Seas have gas turbine engines. Turbine technology minimizes a ship's environmental impact by drastically reducing air emissions, sludge and oil waste. The new GE LM 2500 PLUS gas turbine engines were developed by GE Marine of Evendale, Ohio. Gas turbines work in combination with steam turbines to provide power for the ship's propulsion as well as on board heat and power. Instead of diesel fuel, gas turbine engines require cleaner burning Marine Gas Oil. Emissions are significantly reduced - nitrogen oxide by 80 percent and sulfur oxide by 98 percent. The smoother running turbines also create less noise and vibration for passenger comfort.

Shore Power in Juneau

The first shore power installation anywhere in the world can be found in Juneau. Princess Cruises developed the shore power facility in cooperation with the Alaska Light and Power Company after noting concern for smoke from ship funnels during day-long calls. Princess ships have been specially outfitted to connect to the new shore power distribution system, enabling them to shut down their engines and cut smoke emissions while in port.

The shore power facility is located at the Franklin Street dock. Princess invested $4.5 million in the project which required the coordination of technical resources around the world as well as in Juneau. Special engineering considerations in the planning of this unique project included accommodating the 20 foot rise and fall of the tide.

Other lines visiting Juneau have expressed an interest in using the shore power facility when Princess is not in town.

Treatment of Gray and Black Water

Special treatment plants are found on board cruise ships for processing gray and black water. Gray water comes from sinks, showers, dishwashers and food pulpers, while black water comes from toilets.

Holland America Line is employing a new technology which purifies gray and black water to near-drinking water quality.

Developed by ZENON Environmental Inc. of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, the treatment plant processes wastewater through a two-step bio-chamber stocked with bacteria that break down and consume harmful bacteria and chemicals.

Water then passes through a filtration system that uses a slight vacuum to suck the water through thousands of tiny .03-micron tubes that allow only water molecules to pass. Suspended solids are left behind in the filtration chamber.

Filtered water finally passes through ultraviolet light as a final polishing stage before discharge. The discharge water is pure and would meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water standards except for a slight saline content.

Holland America Line's Statendam and Zaandam employed the new treatment plants in 2001. HAL's other Alaska-bound vessels will have the system installed at a cost of US$2.5 million before May 2002.

U.S. Coast Guard - Qualship 21 Initiative

The cruise ships sailing to Alaska have been recognized by numerous agencies for the work they are doing to protect the environment. The latest of these initiatives is the U.S. Coast Guard's project "quality shipping for the 21st century". Known as Qualship 21, the project recognizes foreign-flagged vessels of all types which demonstrate a commitment to safety and quality and comply with environmental and health regulations.. Already ships of Holland America Line, Princess and Seabourn have been recognized by the Coast Guard and added to the Qualship 21 list.

With the growing popularity of Alaska cruising, it is good to know that cruise lines are actively involved in serious projects to preserve the oceans and the environment of the Alaskan ports they visit.

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