March 12, 2003
Passengers onboard Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Wind, enjoying the vista from a deck aft as the ship sailed between Fanning Island and Maui, spied what they later reported as a "most disgusting sight." According to a wire service story, the Ontario, Canada, couple saw the ship discharge "whole beer bottles, whole wine bottles, beer and pop cans, corks, plastic plates, plastic utensils, plastic cups and organic material were all being tossed into the ocean from the back of the ship." The crux of the issue is that the waste disposed is considered "solid" as opposed to "treated" and the former is not traditionally considered appropriate for dumping at sea. While visually seamy, Norwegian Wind's discharge actually occurred some 200 miles from land, and, according to a company statement, no laws were broken. However: "The reported discharge of soda or beer cans from Norwegian Wind, although legal and over 200 miles from the nearest land, was nevertheless in violation of company policy. Company policy requires that all aluminum cans be crushed and recycled through licensed contractors." NCL officers and executives, who candidly responded to questions about the incident, proactively contacted the appropriate government entities -- the U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency -- and stated that "the discharge of such waste matter was clearly contrary to the company's own internal operating procedures and policies." NCL's only dispute with the passengers' recollections was that their "report...made no mention of plastics at any time during three separate interviews with senior officers including the captain." Regardless, the company continues to cooperate in the U.S. Coast Guard's investigation and is taking strong disciplinary action against onboard officers and crew involved.