The Norwegian Pearl cruise ship, seen docking in Juneau on Tuesday in a screenshot from an Empire video. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The Norwegian Pearl cruise ship, seen docking in Juneau on Tuesday in a screenshot from an Empire video. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Ship exhaust generates flurry of complaints

Norwegian Pearl docks, alarms locals with large emissions plumes

As exhaust emissions poured from the Norwegian Pearl’s exhaust stack on Tuesday, so too did complaints to the Department of Environmental Conservation.

DEC received at least nine calls complaining about the ship’s emissions, and at least one more complaint was lodged electronically, according to Program Manager Ed White, who runs the Commercial Passenger Vessel Environmental Compliance program.

That number is “probably as high as any day that we’ve seen,” White told the Empire on Wednesday. White said he couldn’t comment on whether DEC was in the process of issuing a fine to the Norwegian Pearl as he’s not allowed to comment on ongoing compliance issues.

A 45-minute video of the docking was captured by the Empire and compressed into a video time lapse. The footage, taken from the Douglas Bridge, shows the Pearl emitting nearly-opaque exhaust for much of the video.

The Pearl began to dock at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, maneuvering into position at the AJ Dock after the Norwegian Bliss, which left the dock around this time.

Complaints to DEC were made around the time of the Pearl’s docking, but White said he can’t be positive they all identified the same ship. He and his staff are still processing complaints.

Cruise ships can incur hefty fines for violating DEC air quality regulations. DEC handed out two violations last year to cruise ships, the Norwegian Jewel and the Amsterdam, which were both cited in Ketchikan. Those violations can be as high as $46,192, a fine which was raised this year from $37,500.

No air quality violations have been issued yet this year, but fines are typically levied at the end of the year, White said. The fine process takes a little longer for air quality compared to wastewater discharge violations, which are based on self-monitoring and are often issued a day or two after the violation.

Following Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, air quality violations are based on percentage of opacity, where 0 percent means emissions are seethrough, while 100 percent opacity means one can’t see through it.

Monitors grade these emissions in Juneau and other Alaska cruise ship ports.

Ships are allowed to exceed 20 percent opacity for three minutes an hour while at the dock. When casting off, anchoring and docking, ship exhausts are only allowed to exceed 40 percent opacity for nine minutes out of an hour.

Emissions monitors were out monitoring emissions on Tuesday, White said, but he hasn’t yet received a report of any violation from the Pearl. That could take a few days.

DEC did contact the Norwegian Pearl to let them know of the increase in calls.

New sulfur scrubbers being employed this year have changed how monitors assess air quality, White added, something DEC is still trying to get used to.

White and his three-person staff field calls from locals concerned about how cruise ships are affecting air and water quality. The staff is still logging complaints made over the Labor Day weekend, but as of the beginning of the month, they’d received 112 complaints so far this year.

In 2008, White said DEC received 50 complaints in one day for a ship that wasn’t on the cruise ship calendar and wasn’t expected in town. That was an “extraordinary situation,” he said, which he wouldn’t compare to Tuesday. That ship did receive a penalty.

Complaint totals have been as low as zero (2016) and over 100, White said.

“In a typical year, we’ll receive a few (calls) a week maybe at most. Yesterday exceeded the amount of calls that were received in 2015,” White said.


• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 and kgullufsen@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinGullufsen.


More in News

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Monday, Sept. 20

The most recent state and local figures

The author managed to take a grouse despite being deep in thought for a good half hour of his deer hunt. He made jalapeno poppers that night.
Internal dialogue of a hunter (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)
I Went to the Woods: The internal dialogue of a hunter

There is always something that comes to mind when I am outside.

Courtesy Photo / Molly Pressler Collection
Japanese-Americans interned in Alaska in World War II are shown in this photo at a camp in New Mexico where they endured the majority of the war.
Research into interned Japanese-Americans in Alaska receives grant support

104 Japanese-Americans were interned from Alaska at the outset of WWII.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, Sept. 17, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Thursday, Sept. 16

The most recent state and local figures

The Juneau Police Department is seeking more information on a handful of crimes that occurred in Juneau in August. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police seeking information on recent crimes in Juneau

The police need more information if the investigations are to proceed.

Most Read