SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



Munching on the Cruise Ship Ballot Initiative
By Gregory Vickrey


July 21, 2006

There was quite a bit of vitriol and misinformation dished out at a recent Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce luncheon as well as other venues local and statewide regarding Ballot Measure #2 - the Cruise Ship Ballot Initiative - and I d like to serve up some rational morsels for all voters to chew on in kind.

Here are a few tasty facts:

The purpose of the initiative is to adopt certain and measurable protections for Alaska waters and fisheries resources and to establish taxes that will work to offset the industry's impacts on Alaskan communities.

Ballot Measure #2 was written by Alaskans, and over 23,000 Alaskans signed a petition in support of the initiative.

Ballot Measure #2 will establish a state-wide $50 head tax on the nearly 1 million passengers coming to Alaska on cruise ships.

Federal law requires the money be spent to service the industry.

Ballot Measure #2 requires cruise lines to pay the same percentage of gambling profits to the state for charities and taxes as required of all other gaming industries.

Ballot Measure #2 requires cruise ships to obtain a discharge permit from the State and meet ALL Alaska Water Quality Standards, as required of all other dischargers.

Current law fails to regulate most pollutants from cruise ships, even though every major cruise ship line has been convicted on multiple felony charges for dumping, falsifying records, and lying to government officials. Some examples: in 2004, Holland America pled guilty to discharging 25,000 gallons of sewage into Juneau Harbor and was ordered to pay a $200,000 fine, pay $500,000 in restitution, and spend $1.3 million to improve the ship s handling of wastes; in 1999, Royal Caribbean pled guilty in six jurisdictions to charges of systematically dumping oil-contaminated waste, discharging wastewater, and making false statements to the Coast Guard. Royal Caribbean was fined $18 million. And 16 documented times between October 2002 and 2003 the industry violated an agreement with the state of Hawaii with incidents of dumping sewage and graywater into the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Ballot Measure #2 will use $4 of the head tax to place an independent, certified, marine engineer aboard every ship while in Alaskan waters to observe the waste treatment practices and system maintenance procedures, verify logbook entries, and sample ship discharges.

Time for dessert.

A $50 tax for an average cruise ship tourist works out to less that $10 a day; in return, Alaskans gain water quality protections from an industry woefully inadequate or unwilling to take care of our finest resource; honest disclosure of vendor relationships with the cruise ship industry; and a safer, balanced economic playing field for industries that impact our quality of life.

No matter your hunger for this issue, I encourage you to savor the facts and read the initiative itself. While it may be more enjoyable to devour emotionally driven opinions of some of this city's finest, the delicacy of rational thought is often best served solo.

Gregory Vickrey
Ketchikan, AK - USA


About: "While Gregory Vickrey is a staffer with the Tongass Conservation Society, the delicious facts and opinions in this piece are his own and are not in any way meant to represent the viewpoints of one of the finest organizations in Ketchikan, TCS. Gregory resides in Ketchikan with his two pups, Truman and Nixon. He also votes religiously."

Related Story:

Opponents of "Cruise Tax" Say Alaska's Economy Is Under Attack; Alaska Cruise Ship Initiative Slated for August Primary Ballot By DICK KAUFFMAN - Voters will soon be deciding whether the state should start taxing cruise ships and tighten regulations on these gargantuan vessels that are the lifeblood of Alaska's tourism industry. A sweeping petition targeting the cruise ship industry met the required 23,286 signatures to make it on the ballot and will go before voters in the August 22 statewide primary. - More...
July 12, 2006



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