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Ocean Ranger Cruise Ship Bill Introduced in California

SACRAMENTO, California, February 24, 2008 (ENS) – Every cruise ship transiting California waters would carry an Ocean Ranger aboard to oversee wastewater discharge practices and the maintenance and operation of pollution control equipment if a bill introduced in the state Senate Friday becomes law.

Senator Joe Simitian, a Democrat, introduced the bill to protect California waters from cruise ship pollution, protect cruise ship passengers from crimes on the high seas, and coordinate with Department of Homeland Security agencies to be a first line of defense against terrorism attacks in U.S. ports of call. The legislation would establish the California Ocean Ranger program, similar to a program enacted in Alaska in 2006.

It would require cruise ship owners or operators to have aboard an ocean ranger employed by the California Department of Justice who is a licensed marine engineer and would be granted peace officer status under this bill.

Existing law prohibits a large passenger vessel from releasing specified waste streams into the marine waters of the state and requires the owner or operator of the vessel to maintain specified records.

The Ocean Rangers would monitor the vessel’s compliance with this prohibition and other applicable federal laws and regulations on waste discharge.

A $1 fee per berth per day would be assessed on each ship to pay for the Ocean Ranger program.


A cruise ship at Pacific Cruise Ship
Terminals at the Port of Los Angeles’
World Cruise Center. (Photo courtesy
PCST)

The legislation is supported by the Earth Island Institute, a San Francisco-based nonprofit environmental organization.

“Our first goal was to establish a cruise ship Ocean Ranger program in Alaska,” said Gershon Cohen of Earth Island Institute. “That effort culminated in a successful statewide initiative passed by popular vote in 2006.”

“This California legislation will take the next step towards establishing uniform monitoring programs for the entire west coast of North America; we must not allow cruise ships to simply dump their waste before getting to Alaska,” said Cohen.

“Senator Simitian championed a zero-discharge rule for cruise ships in California three years ago, and recognizes the need for having Ocean Rangers on board to verify the industry’s compliance with environmental laws and protect U.S. citizens,” he said.

Kendall Carver, president of the nonprofit group International Cruise Victims, believes the time for independent safety officers on cruise ships has come. “The cruise industry has failed to adopt adequate measures to protect its passengers,” he said. “In Congressional hearings in 2006 and 2007, International Cruise Victims called for independent monitors on all cruise ships. This legislation is a big step forward and is to be commended.”

Carver is concerned about threats to homeland security that could occur when cruise ships enter U.S. ports, warning, “Tens of thousands of foreign nationals have direct access to U.S. port cities every day via cruise ships, with minimal or no oversight.”

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