From the sewage section of the Mayor’s Cruise Ship Task Force Final Report, dated Aug. 15, 2005 but released Sept. 2. Please note that every cruise ship entering Hawaiian waters except the Pride of America is “foreign-flag”:
The Hawai’i MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] is an agreement between the NWCA [North West Cruise ship Association] and the State of Hawai’i outlining cruise ship operations and environmental practices… Most of the MOU references environmental practices.
The Hawai’i Department of Health (DOH) is the agency of the State government that oversees cruise ship activities related to waste management. The DOH cannot directly investigate or enforce MOU violations on foreign-flag cruise ships. To board any foreign-flag ship, the DOH must obtain permission from the ship captain and must be accompanied by the USCG [United States Coast Guard] when doing so.
Under these circumstances the DOH cannot make unannounced inspections of waste management procedures on board foreign-flag ships and has no means of determining whether or not a given ship is complying with the MOU other than self-reporting by cruise ships.
The U.S Coast Guard has jurisdiction over the waste practices of foreign-flag cruise ships, and can enforce U.S. law. However, there are no U.S. laws that specifically address sewage or air pollution on foreign-flag ships.
Under the current MOU, violations are identified by reports from the cruise ships that committed the violation or by third parties reporting the violation. There is no legal mechanism by which DOH can identify violations on foreign-flag ships.
Cruise ships are not required to report MOU violations immediately after they occur. Foreign-flag ships only stay in State waters a few days at most, therefore, even if a foreign ship does report a possible violation immediately, the DOH has difficulty investigating in coordination with the U.S Coast Guard (as required by law) before such ships leave Hawai’i.
The Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) prohibits discharge of pollutants from point sources into U.S waters unless a permit is obtained from the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
Ships are not considered point sources [of] pollution (because they are mobile), therefore they are exempt from the permitting requirements of the CWA.
No agency in the State of Hawai’i regularly collects baseline measurements of water quality in State coastal waters. DOH is responsible for water quality but is not required to test or monitor harbors or ocean waters beyond knee-high depth. DOH has no enforcement authority with regard to violations that may occur in State marine waters. MTW