March 6, 2003
Crystal Cruises is finding itself in an unusual position: smack in the middle of an environmental maelstrom. Last October, Crystal Harmony, on a call to Monterey, California -- one of cruisedoms' most notoriously sensitive ecological ports -- accidentally released gray water, treated black water and processed bilge water within the confines of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. While the dumping wasn't, technically, illegal -- the ship was 14 miles offshore -- it did violate a private agreement that Crystal had made with Monterey. In that agreement, Crystal had committed to not dumping within the sanctuary. Typically, the company's worldwide policy (which can vary based on circumstances) stands at a 12 mile offshore limit. On its part, Crystal has taken internal action, firing the ship's chief officer and issuing final warnings to the Captain and a junior officer. Its executives have also apologized to the folks of Monterey. "Crystal Cruises' policy is to not discharge in any marine sanctuary," writes Joseph E. Valenti, senior vice president of Crystal's Marine Operations, in a letter to California officials. "While this unfortunate incident took place approximately 14 miles offshore, it was not only a variance to the commitment we made to Monterey but it also violated Crystal Cruises' own corporate environmental policy." In that same letter, Valenti made a sincere apology. "Crystal Cruises sincerely apologizes for the incident and truly regrets that vessel personnel did not comply with the firm instructions given them with respect to the call in Monterey." According to a wire service report, a Monterey official sounds not at all appeased, saying Crystal's ships are no longer welcome in Monterey. Which is not really a big conundrum for Crystal as it has no scheduled calls there in 2003 or 2004.