Two tourists walk along the shore at low tide as the cruise ship Caribbean Princess sits anchored in Frenchman Bay off downtown Bar Harbor in this 2008 file photo. Citing multi-million dollars fines levied against Carnival Cruise lines, which owns the Caribbean Princess, the Bar Harbor Town Council is looking to have the cruise industry fund a local air quality monitoring program. Credit: Bill Trotter

In the wake of a multimillion dollar fine levied earlier this summer against Carnival Cruise Lines for repeated environmental violations, the town of Bar Harbor is looking to the cruise industry to pay for monitoring the town’s air quality.

Town Councilor Gary Friedmann said he contacted Carnival Cruise lines to ask them to pay for the program. He said roughly a third of the nearly 180 ship visits scheduled for Bar Harbor this year are by Carnival ships or other lines owned by the same parent company.

Friedmann said that, in light of the Carnival’s multiple environmental violations and questions he has received from local residents, he thought he would ask the company to fund a program in Bar Harbor to monitor air quality, which occasionally suffers on hot summer days as a result of pollution from other states. If Carnival was looking for ways to improve its image on environmental issues, it might be willing to foot the bill to measure air pollution in the area, he reasoned.

But, he added, a Carnival spokeswoman told him the company did not want to fund it directly. He said she told him that such a program might be funded through the town’s anchorage fee program.

Still, the council voted 7-0 on Aug. 6 to forward the proposal to the town’s cruise ship committee for further consideration.

The inquiry comes a couple of months after Carnival was fined $20 million in June by a federal judge for continuing to pollute the ocean despite a 2016 conviction for violating federal environmental laws. Ships owned by Carnival and its subsidiary cruise lines are scheduled to make more than 70 visits to Maine this year, with 58 scheduled for Bar Harbor and 13 for Portland.

In all, nearly 280 cruise ship visits have been scheduled this year for Bar Harbor and Portland, Maine’s two busiest cruise ship ports.

The Caribbean Princess — which used a so-called “magic pipe” to dump untreated pollution into the ocean — is scheduled to make seven visits to Bar Harbor this summer and one to Portland, on Friday, Aug. 16.

None of the acts of illegal dumping of pollution are alleged to have occurred in Maine.

Roger Frizzell, a spokesman for Carnival, said last week that there are air monitoring programs in cruise ship ports on the West Coast, and that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection is expected to complete a study on marine vessel emissions by January 2020.

Victoria, British Columbia, has an air-quality monitoring program that is public funded, he said, while Juneau, Alaska, has a new air monitoring program this summer that is funded through existing cruise passenger fees.

As of this past spring, Carnival has invested more than half a billion dollars in developing and installing exhaust-cleaning air “scrubbers” on more than 75 ships in its fleet, according to information on Carnival’s website. The company plans to have scrubbers installed on 85 percent of its global fleet by 2020.

“Environmental compliance is a top priority, and we are working hard across the company to make important strides, including dramatically reducing single use plastics on board and food waste,” Frizzell said.

Other Bar Harbor councilors said last week that they support having the cruise companies pay to monitor Bar Harbor’s air quality. For years the town has used cruise ship fees to fund water quality studies of the local harbor.

“I brought this up [years ago],” when Carnival was fined $40 million for prior environmental violations, Councilor Matt Hochman said. “They’re the ones that got caught with these violations — repeated violations.”

Hochman said that years of testing water in the harbor and finding no contaminants has shown that the ships have not polluted Frenchman Bay.

“Let’s see what’s going on in the air,” he said.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....