Holland America on Environmental Tear

August 18, 2006

In an effort to reduce use of diesel engines while docked in Seattle, Holland America's Oosterdam and Westerdam have "plugged in" to shore power outlets there. The effort aims as well to reduce air emissions, and the Seattle-based cruise line will purchase the power it uses.

It's not quite as simple as finding a plug onboard to hook into a land-side generator; Holland America actually spent nearly $1 million to retrofit each ship and another $1.5 million to establish dockside hookups and install a transformer. Holland America paid these costs though it did receive a $25,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

According to a company press release, "after docking under their own power, the Oosterdam and Westerdam are hooked up to shore power within 20 - 30 minutes. Power generation is transferred back to the ship shortly before departure. The Port [of Seattle] estimates a ship will use about the same amount of electricity per call as the Columbia Tower uses each weekday. The approximate cost for shore power each time a ship plugs in is $5,000."

Next up for the electricity retrofit is Holland America's Noordam; it will use shore power during 2007 itineraries from Seattle.

In other environmental news, Holland America has received an Environmental Protection Agency grant to experiment with a seawater scrubber feasibility project that is focused on reducing air emissions while at sea. The results, as tested on Zaandam, will determine whether this technology could be rolled out to new oceangoing vessels, as well as retrofitting existing vessels.

It's a pretty pricey effort -- Holland America will spend $1.2 million on the installation though the $300,000 EPA grand, along with a $100,000 contribution from Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, provide some offset.

Want to know how it's supposed to work? According to the announcement, the breakdown of what the seawater scrubber will contribute -- and forgive us for being technical here -- is as follows:

Partially reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx)

Almost entirely eliminate sulfur dioxide (Sox)

Drastically decrease the amount of particulate matter (PM)

Bottom line: First, the heavy fuel oil is treated so that the amount of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter will decrease once the oil burns. Next, the engine emission enters the scrubber, and the sulfur dioxide is almost wiped out because of its reaction with seawater's key ingredient -- calcium carbonate (CaCO3).