Cruise Line Refutes Accusations of Dumping

August 10, 2012

(8:35 a.m. EDT) -- Holland America is refuting claims that one of its ships is responsible for sewage discovered Saturday along a Massachusetts beach.

Local paper The Daily Item said a town official in tiny Nahant, MA, is fingering HAL because a Maasdam "room tag" was found amid the garbage, which reportedly also included rubber gloves, dental floss, contraceptive and personal hygiene items, and a urinal cake, among other things.

"We do not believe the debris is from ms Maasdam," Holland America said in a statement sent to Cruise Critic.

Maasdam was last in Massachusetts waters on July 14, when it embarked from Boston on an 18-night Voyage of the Vikings sailing that ended in Amsterdam.

Harbormaster Rob Tibbo, who discovered the trash, told the paper that the refuse "appears to be macerated sewage and other possible holding tank waste." Administrator Andy Bisignani added that macerated sewage is "what occurs when large ocean vessels grind up waste and keep it in a holding tank to be pumped out at designated stations."

Both Bisignani and Patek asserted that the waste must have come from a ship, with Bisignani adding that any waste dumped by a ship in the North Channel would be swept by the incoming tide right onto Nahant beaches.

Bisignani also said he "personally" observed a cruise ship exiting Boston Harbor on the Friday before the sewage was found. Though he didn't identify the ship and emphasized that "the town is not accusing the cruise ship of illegal dumping," he also referred to the Maasdam room tag as "pretty serious and specific evidence."

"Maasdam has been sailing a 17-day European and transatlantic itinerary that departed Amsterdam on August 1," Holland America said in its statement. Regardless, cruise line spokesman Erik Elvejord told Cruise Critic that the "environmental and safety department is looking into things."

"We are not allowed to dump plastic, and it is offloaded as garbage. We follow the regulations," he added.

According to U.S. regulations, no ship can dump sewage within three miles of land. Furthermore, ships cannot dump plastic anywhere. Highly treated gray- and blackwater may be discharged at sea, as can solid garbage under certain conditions. For instance paper and packaging materials must be incinerated first, food garbage must be grinded and glass must be crushed. In all circumstances, discharge must be done beyond the mileage limit and when the ship is traveling faster than 6 knots.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor

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