Inspections Begin on Large Cruise Ships in Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay, Alaska, implements a new inspection program to replace Ocean Rangers. Large cruise ships are to be inspected at random effective immediately.

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Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve has started doing random cruise ship inspections, ensuring the vessels comply with the environmental rules and regulations in place in the highly protected waters. 

The inspections follow several years where cruise ships were left unchecked, resulting in a Holland America cruise ship dumping gray water in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Each cruise ship sailing in the area will undergo two random inspections during each Alaska season. 

New Cruise Ship Inspection Program In Glacier Bay

After incidents in the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, including a Holland America Line ship dumping grey water and cruise ships entering the area unchecked for years following the end of the Ocean Ranger program, the National Park has announced it has started doing independent random inspections of cruise ships sailing in the area. 

The inspectors will be focused on whether or not the vessels are following the environmental guidelines that are in place in the highly protected areas. Several cruise lines have already agreed on the inspections and signed contracts with third-party inspectors.

Cruise Ship in Glacier Bay, Alaska
Photo Credit: fon thachakul / Shutterstock

The cruise lines include Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and Seabourn, with Norwegian Cruise Line expected to follow soon. 

The cruise industry will entirely fund the Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Program. But, the inspections will be carried out by third-party, independent inspectors who will report directly to the management at Glacier Bay. Inspections will occur randomly with inspectors boarding ships as they enter the national park without prior notice to those onboard the vessel.

The Ocean Rangers organization has historically done the inspections; however, following budget cuts by the Dunleavy administration, that program does not exist anymore. 

Dr. Philip Hooge, Superintendent of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, said this: “The State of Alaska’s Ocean Ranger program was an essential component in the park’s oversight of cruise ship concessions contracts. We would prefer that the State program be re-established to complete inspections in Glacier Bay.”

Read Also: How Much Does an Alaskan Cruise Cost? – What to Budget

“Until then, we must ensure the ship’s environmental systems meet NPS contract obligations. And this program provides rigorous inspection at minimal cost to the industry.” 

The Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a highly protected area, with strict guidelines regulating the use and amount of visitors in the area. Although only two cruise ships are allowed to enter the site daily, those ships still represent 95% of the total visitor numbers each year. 

Marine Environment Is The Main Concern

Glacier Bay is one of Alaska’s best-protected marine environments and one of the largest national parks of its kind in the United States. That being said, the park’s management understands that access to the park is a must. 

The new Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Program will play an essential part in ensuring the park is protected and enjoyed by future generations. Included in the inspections are wastewater management, air emissions, fuel quality, garbage management, marine mammal protection, and reviews of compliance documentation.

Holland America Cruise Ship in Alaska
Photo Courtesy: Holland America Line

So far, the cruise industry has welcomed the move from the National Park; it is funding the inspection voluntarily but also has to abide by the inspection results. As concession owners for Glacier Bay, cruise lines are contracted to provide visitors services to the national park; state and federal regulations require them to reduce environmental impacts. 

“We welcome this opportunity to help ensure that the high standards that are a hallmark of our operations in Glacier Bay continue and to reinforce our commitment to environmental protection,” said Jan Swartz, group president serving Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and Seabourn. 

Cruise lines are often criticized for their environmental impact; as such, initiatives like this, where the companies take their responsibilities, are still needed. Not just in Alaska but worldwide. 

Something that some cruise lines have already done, looking at MSC’s Marine reserve and the drive to zero carbon ships, but also the introduction of LNG-powered cruise ships by Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean.

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