News Release

Glacier Bay Implements Environmental Monitoring and Compliance for Cruise Ships

Aerial view of a white cruise ship boating through a large bay lined with mountains.

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News Release Date: July 25, 2022

Contact: Dr. Scott Gende, Senior Science Advisor, 907-697-2230

BARTLETT COVE, ALASKA – Glacier Bay National Park has initiated an environmental inspection program focused on large cruise ships that enter the park. Effective immediately, independent inspectors will board ships unannounced to assess operations such as wastewater management, emissions, marine mammal protection, and compliance documentation.

More than 95% of all visitors to Glacier Bay arrive aboard large cruise ships to access and enjoy dynamic tidewater glacier systems protected within this National Park. While all cruise ships that visit Alaska must meet state and federal regulations to reduce impacts to the environment, cruise ships that have permits into Glacier Bay must comply with additional environmental standards. Contractual requirements by these ships, such as zero discharge of wastewater and use of low sulfur fuel, exceed the standards required when operating in state waters.

“The combination of park regulations with operating requirements in the contracts make Glacier Bay the most environmentally sustainable area in the world for cruise ships to visit,” says Dr. Philip Hooge, Superintendent of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

This Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Program is funded entirely by the cruise industry. However, third-party, independent inspectors will report directly to managers at Glacier Bay. Inspections will occur randomly with inspectors boarding as cruise ships enter the park. Ship’s crew will not know when inspection will occur until boarding. 

Historically, Glacier Bay managers used reports from the State of Alaska’s Ocean Ranger program to meet this requirement. With the Ocean Ranger program dissolved, inspectors with knowledge of ship operations have not been present on vessels that entered the park since the resumption of Alaska cruising in June 2021.

“The State of Alaska’s Ocean Ranger program was an essential component in the park’s oversight of cruise ship concessions contracts” says Superintendent Hooge. “We would prefer that the State program be re-established to complete inspections in Glacier Bay. 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.”  

Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and Seabourn, have signed a contract with third party inspectors. A contract between inspectors and Norwegian Cruise Lines is expected shortly. 

“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.  

Inspections will focus on all operations that may have environmental impacts including wastewater management, air emissions, fuel quality, garbage management, marine mammal protection, and inspections of compliance documentation. 

Glacier Bay National Park contains one of Alaska’s largest and best protected marine ecosystems. The National Park Service is committed to preserving this vast, intact, naturally functioning marine ecosystem for future generations while meeting its mandate for access and enjoyment of park resources and values. This Environmental Monitoring and Compliance Program is a key part of the larger effort to protect this iconic marine park.  

Last updated: August 2, 2022

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Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve
PO Box 140

Gustavus, AK 99826


907 697-2230

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