Comment on cruise ship agreement amendments

Since 2004, large cruise ships that sail in Washington waters have managed their wastewater under an environmental protection agreement signed by Cruise Lines International Association North West & Canada (CLIA), the Port of Seattle, and us.

CLIA represents large cruise liners that operate between Seattle and Alaska from April to October each year. In 2019, these ships made 213 voyages from the Port of Seattle.

These ships did not visit Seattle in 2020, as part of national and global efforts to control the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. As of this writing, no date has been set to resume Seattle-based cruise operations. The Port of Seattle recently issued a statement regarding the cruise season this year.

It’s amendment time

Every three years, the three organizations ask the public to suggest additions or changes to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (PDF document), last amended in 2017. Ecology invited the public to propose amendments this past fall. Also, the MOU parties can propose amendments.   

Two amendments — one from the public and one from us — met the criteria for consideration set in the MOU to move to public comment. The MOU signatory parties will decide whether to proceed with the proposals after a 30-day comment period, which concludes on March 19, 2021. Adoption of an amendment requires mutual approval by all three signatories.

The amendments would:

  • Incorporate direct reference to the Puget Sound No-Discharge Zone for vessel sewage, adopted in 2018, to better align the MOU with the zone’s requirements.

  • Allow no discharge of rinse water used to scrub engine exhaust emissions. Eleven non-profit groups requested banning this discharge under the MOU.

To view and comment

  • Our website provides details on the amendments and the MOU, and comment links and information.

  • Use our online comment app to type or paste in comments and attachments.

  • Mail comments to Cruise MOU Comments; Dept. of Ecology; 3190 160th Ave. SE; Bellevue, WA 98008-5452. 

More about the MOU

Since 2012, under the MOU, CLIA member ships have opted to not discharge wastewater (both sewage and washwater) in Washington waters. Under the existing MOU language, ships may apply to us for discharge approval and show that they use wastewater technology called advanced treatment systems that meet the standards required in the agreement. However, with the establishment of the Puget Sound No Discharge Zone in 2018, Ecology can no longer grant approval for treated sewage discharges.

CLIA member ships that operate in Washington waters submit annual reports to us on their wastewater treatment performance.  We also inspect the wastewater treatment systems on CLIA vessels. We post this information online.  

In addition to wastewater discharges, the MOU addresses solid and hazardous waste disposal and other environmental issues.