Recent moves by the North West Cruise Ship Association, which
represents the eight major lines that operate in Alaska, the
Pacific Northwest and Canada, to prohibit certain kinds of
otherwise permissible waste dumping and to fund efforts designed to
help in oil-spill cleanups should buoy the spirits of those
dedicated to protecting the ecology of the region.
For starters, the Vancouver-based association said that cruise
ships will not dump raw sewage or ground-up food in those areas of
the Inside Passage called "doughnut holes" -- bodies of water three
miles or more from land -- where such dumping is technically
John Hansen, who is president of the group, has been quoted as
saying, "We will make it our policy to consider all areas of the
Alaska Inside Passage, including the doughnut holes, to be part and
parcel of the Inside Passage and the [environmentally protected]
territorial waters of the U.S."
According to the association, its members operate 21 ships to
Alaskan destinations from May to October, with more than 300
sailings, so the voluntary commitment by the lines could have a
major impact on preserving the integrity of the region's
Coming as it does in the turgid wake of $6.5 million in fines
assessed against association member Royal Caribbean International
for illegal dumping in Alaskan waters, the pledge is both timely
As for oil spills, the association announced that it will
station five quick-response barges in southeast Alaskan waters
specially equipped with cleanup apparatus.
The group said one or two of the barges, which will cost about
$1.3 million to design and build, should be operational by May.
They eventually will be tied up at Gustavus, Skagway, Yakutat,
Ketchikan and Juneau.
We hope they will never be needed. But if someday they are, it's
reassuring to know they'll be on call.