MIAMI -- Cruise lines that illegally dump bilge water into the ocean or falsify environmental records can face itinerary problems in Alaska, specifically in Glacier Bay, one of the state's top cruising attractions.

Royal Caribbean International currently is prohibited from sailing in Glacier Bay, and Carnival Cruise Lines is barred from renewing its Glacier Bay cruising permit as a result of offenses related to environmental crimes.

Norwegian Cruise Line also could be federally debarred as a result of pleading guilty in July for failing to keep an accurate oil record book on the Norway.

According to Bob Meunier, the Environmental Protection Agency's debarring official, a debarment prohibits companies from doing business with any federal agency or from receiving government benefits, such as receiving or renewing Glacier Bay permits.

The permits are controlled by the National Park Service. However, it is Meunier who decides if a company should be debarred, and if so, for what length of time. Generally, he said, a debarment lasts for about three years.

NCL, which is scheduled to have three ships visiting Glacier Bay next summer, said it took prompt action when the problems on the Norway surfaced three years ago and cooperated with the govern-ment during the investigation, something that Meunier said could favor a limited ban or none at all.

"Where [a company] has done things to isolate the risk and correct it, I consider those things," he said. "Yes, [NCL's failure to keep an accurate oil record book is] a debarrable offense, but ... that's a judgment call that the debarring official makes."

Meunier said he had not yet received any paperwork on NCL.

Royal Caribbean International was debarred from April 1999 through April 2004, the National Park Service said. Royal Caribbean ships currently visit Hubbard Glacier, another well-known attraction in Alaska. The line declined to comment.

In 1999, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. agreed to pay a record $18 million fine for dumping oil-contaminated waste and other hazardous chemicals.

Carnival Cruise Lines in June was debarred from renewing its license for three years after parent company Carnival Corp. pleaded guilty to falsifying federal records about oil dumping. Their current license expires at the end of 2004, and the line continues to visit Glacier Bay.

Meunier said a debarment could be shortened; the company can petition for reinstatement, and a Carnival spokesman said the cruise line is working to demonstrate "satisfactory" environmental compliance.

In both the Royal Caribbean and Carnival debarments, neither lines' sister brands, Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line, respectively, were affected.

Comments
JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI