May 11, 2001
Yes indeed, Norwegian Sky, the first cruise ship to visit southeast Alaska this season and the first to, alas, have a little pollution problem, has been officially cited by the U.S. Coast Guard for "illegally dumping concentrated sewage into the scenic Inside Passage."
We previously reported that Norwegian had proactively contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and other environmental concerns but late last night the USCG reported the faux pas in more detail -- and we hope you're not eating: "The Norwegian Sky...discharged the sewage for 20 - 30 minutes while it was traveling between Juneau and Ketchikan.... With the ship traveling at about 17 knots, that means a waste stream of half- to three-quarters of a mile."
Results from tests performed by the independent laboratories, according to the USCG, showed that "samples from the ship showed fecal coliform at 3,500 times the allowable federal standard and suspended solids 180 times the standard."
The civic penalty for such a violation is up to $25,000 per day.
The accident's timing couldn't have been worse. Aside from Norwegian Sky's being the first ship of the season, it also occurred during a period when environmentally-friendly Governor Tony Knowles had called state lawmakers back to the capital for a special session on cruise pollution (the legislature had adjourned without passing a bill to regulate big cruise ships). Among other requirements, the bill, if passed within the next two weeks, will require ships with more than 50 overnight guests to pay a $1 per passenger fee for state monitoring and enforcement.