Alaska Official Questions Cruise Ship Inspector Program

Alaska legislators are considering whether to end the state’s onboard cruise ship inspectors program. Officials in the administration of Mike Dunleavy, Alaska’s governor, have said publicly the Ocean Rangers may be superfluous considering cruise ship monitoring mechanisms currently in place.

Conversely, program officials have described Ocean Rangers as critical to cruise ship environmental monitoring. The debate concerning the program occurs amidst the backdrop of a recent threat by a federal judge to ban Carnival Corp. ships from U.S. ports due to possible violations of probation for environmental violations.

The Ocean Rangers program will be in effect during the Alaska cruise season beginning this month. The program originated in 2007 and is funded by the state’s cruise ship passenger fee, which voters approved in 2006. Any change to the program would require an act of the Alaska legislature.

Currently, every large cruise ship operating in the state is required to allow an Ocean Ranger, a licensed marine engineer, aboard. The Rangers are permitted to move freely around the ship to observe operations.

Jason Brune, the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), recently called the cruise industry “over-regulated,” adding “no other industry in the state is subject to 24/7 on-site observers.” He said Ocean Rangers have made issued only six Notices of Violation in 11 years.

However, DEC’s public reports show the inspectors actually logged 373 potential violations over the past two years, according to an Associated Press report. The decision to escalate to a formal violation notice is the responsibility of senior DEC staff.

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