Investigation Launched After Cruise Ship Allegedly Sails Too Close to Na Pali Coast

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State authorities have launched an investigation following allegations that Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge sailed dangerously close to the Nā Pali Coast on the north shore of the island of Kauai, potentially violating state regulations.

According to Hawaii News Now and community advocates, the ship was observed approximately 1,000 feet from shore, an area renowned for its pristine environmental and cultural significance to the local Hawaiian community. This proximity is considerably less than the 3,000 feet stipulated by Hawaiian administrative rules for commercial vessels carrying more than 50 passengers.

The cruise ship tracker showed Celebrity Edge circumnavigating Kauai, with the ship moving close to Nā Pali coast, a protected state wilderness park. The tracker shows the ship turning around in the area, where local residents and tour operators took to social media to share images of the ship near the shore. Aerial footage indicated the ship was disrupting the seabed for an immediate environmental impact.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the U.S. Coast Guard, and the State Department of Transportation are currently assessing the situation. Jason Redulla, chief of the Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE), indicated that multiple reports have been filed and are being actively investigated by officials in Kauai and Honolulu.

The 130,818-gross-ton Celebrity Edge is currently navigating Hawaiian waters on a 10-night cruise that departed from Honolulu, Oahu, on May 1. It is expected to call on Hilo, Hawaii, on May 3, and Kailua Kona, Hawaii, on May 5 before sailing to Vancouver. The ship is not expected to resume its Hawaiian cruises until late September.

Nā Pali Coast Significance and Environmental Concerns

The Nā Pali Coast of Kauai, with its dramatic cliffs and pristine waters, is not just a popular tourist destination but also a sacred place deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture. The backdrop to movies such as Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean, the Nā Pali Coast is only accessible by boat, helicopter, or hiking in via the Kalalau Trail.

Hawaii Administrative Rules 13-256-41 specifies, “In no case shall a commercial vessel having a passenger carrying capacity of fifty or more passengers be permitted to operate with Na Pali Coast Ocean Waters.”

Celebrity Edge has the capacity to hold 2,908 passengers, as well as more than 1,300 crew members.

Napali Coast
Napali Coast (Photo Credit: Barbarajo)

The incident brings to the forefront ongoing concerns about the balance between tourism and the preservation of Hawaii’s natural and cultural heritage.

Read Also: Honolulu Cruise Port – Terminals and Guide

This concern is reflected in broader state policies aimed at managing tourism sustainably. For instance, pre-pandemic, the Mayor’s Task Force in Maui recommended limiting the number of cruise ships in Lahaina and Kahului Harbors to mitigate overcrowding and environmental degradation.

Similarly, the pre-Pandemic Kauai Strategic Plan highlighted resident concerns over overtourism, which they feel has surpassed the island’s capacity.

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