In Earth Day Fashion ... HAL's Zaandam Goes Green

April 24, 2007
Editor's note: Yesterday's "Jeopardy!" challenge netted some pretty interesting e-mails and educated guesses, including "What is H20?" We even heard from a former chemistry teacher who explained the finer points of combustion and corrosion. She did mention the compound we were looking for -- calcium carbonate -- but Quattrohead was the first to hit the nail on the head, and will be awarded a fancy Cruise Critic T-shirt. Thanks to everyone who gave it the old college try!

(April 23) -- Holland America's Zaandam, which arrived in its homeport of Seattle today for the launch of its Alaska season, is celebrating Earth Day in an innovative way. The 60,906-ton, 1,440-passenger ship, which just returned from a two-week dry-dock in British Columbia, has just been outfitted with brand-new, cutting edge emission reduction technology.

The technology is essentially a modification to the exhaust stack on the ship; a scrubber was installed during a recent two-week dry-dock, which will reduce engine emissions -- using seawater.

Here's how it works: The "scrubber," which is installed into the smoke stack, isn't a brush as you might imagine but instead a number of technologies that mix the hot gasses from the engine exhaust with very small droplets of cool seawater to "scrub" away sulfur oxide and other matter (such as tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in gas) that pollute the air and potentially cause adverse health effects.

One of the big factors in making this work is the combination of the technology and of nature itself; the natural chemistry of seawater removes particles and sulfur oxide. How this works would be a great "Jeopardy!" answer: "This chemical compound in seawater renders the sulfur oxides harmless via conversion to sulfates and neutral salts." If you know the "question," e-mail (seriously!); the first reader to respond correctly will win a Cruise Critic T-shirt.

Since this scrubber uses 400 tons of seawater per hour, it cannot be stored onboard the ship. The seawater is treated to separate any solid particles and associated petroleum hydrocarbon compounds, a spokesman for the line tells us, and discharged back into the sea (it is drawn in via a pump in the engine room).

Zaandam is actually the cruise industry's guinea pig in this experiment -- the astounding $1.5 million tab for the test run is being paid not only by Holland America but also by other cruise lines and government agencies.

The reason for the experiment, says Holland America chief Stein Kruse in a statement, is that the technology "could dramatically change not only the cruise industry but the entire maritime industry by reducing ship engine emissions."

The $1.5 million seawater scrubbing system was developed by Krystallon, a joint venture between fuel supplier BP Marine and fuel, lubricant and water quality testing company Kittiwake Developments Ltd. Other funding for the project was provided by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)/West Coast Collaborative grant, a $100,000 contribution from Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, the Port of Seattle, the Port of Vancouver, Environment Canada, British Columbia Ministry of the Environment and the B. C. Clean Air Research Fund.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Senior Editor