JUNEAU, Alaska -- A "properly maintained, well-managed, modern cruise ship" will not release harmful levels of chemicals or bacteria into Alaskan waters, according to a recent report.

The two-year study, issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), showed tougher regulations -- which set discharge parameters and require waste water to be discharged while ships are moving -- "appear to effectively limit the impact of discharge on Alaska receiving waters."

One federal and one state law, both passed in 2001, created discharge limits for blackwater (sewage) and graywater (shower and kitchen water), respectively, according to Denise Koch, manager of the DEC's commercial passenger vessel environmental compliance program.

"In the 1990s, Alaskans started getting increasingly concerned about the high volume of cruise ships, especially in southeast Alaska," Koch said.

The study was conducted over a two-year period by an independent panel of oceanographers, microbiologists and engineers, the DEC said, who conducted tests onboard Alaska-operating cruise ships and collected environmental documents from some of the lines.

The conclusions were reached under the assumption that the ships were sailing "in full compliance with government regulations."

Of the 25 large cruise ships -- those with more than 250 overnight passengers -- operating in Alaska in 2002, each vessel generated 150,000 gallons of graywater and blackwater per day; however, "three years of sampling and analysis have not indicated vessels are using this pathway as a source of hazardous waste disposal," the report said.

The panelists recommended the state more closely regulate smaller cruise ships, which have a greater leeway to discharge wastewater, and introduce limits for the use of chlorine in waste water treatment systems.

The study did not check discharge associated with bilge and ballast water, something Koch said the DEC might investigate -- but would expand the study to include all vessels, not just cruise ships.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI