What's everyone's take on this - Eurodam sails dangerously close to whales

I'm wondering what everyone's opinions are on these videos from a boat that was near Eurodam in Alaska yesterday morning. We just wrote up an article on it. From our standpoint it doesn't look like a good distance and didn't look very safe for the whales.

https://cruiseline.com/advice/what-s-hot/news/cruise-line-faces-investigation-after-near-miss-with-whales-video

Tags: alaska Holland America Line Eurodam eurodam holland america

11 Answers

Would like to know investigative results before offering opinion.

Hey, Stein Kruse, better start managing and doing a little less politicking.

Wow, Holland American Lines, you don't make it easy for some of us up here to defend you against those who want no more big ships and those who want no cruise ships period, do you? Try something like this in Hawaii and you get run out of town. You are lucky we have a new governor who looks the other way over such behavior.

I guess the 60 million Carnival Corp paid (40 million three years ago, then another 20 million a few weeks ago since they didn't clean up their act after the first wrist slap) in environmental fines, has yet to sink in. Stein Kruse, CEO of the Holland America Group was even present along with Micky Arison for the sentencing.

https://www.cruiselawnews.com/2019/06/articles/cruelty-murder-of-animals/hals-eurodam-ignores-calls-to-reduce-speed-while-approaching-whales/?fbclid=IwAR2y3PZJ0ffRAcUNpG8_I8eHxamz_s0Aue07LDBNGDiPkumg1mfRusgBSsw

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/carnival-cruise-company-20-million-pollution-violations-settlement-today-2019-06-03/

Here is HAL's take on the matter-----

"In a statement, Holland America Line said crew observed the pod bubble feeding ahead of the ship around 6:40 a.m. near Kingsmill Point.

“Following proper protocols, the captain altered course by 10 degrees to create more distance between the ship and whales, allowing them to safely pass,” the statement reads."

of course...you expect them to say "we wanted our passengers so close they could get sprayed by them"...?

Yeah .. hard to say on that. The ship is a bit too close to the whales but when did they see them and what action was taken. Those are the unanswered questions. Those big ships do not turn on a dime like a kayak or canoe can.

But .. if this is an area where the whales are known to feed then what the heck is a ship that size doing even remotely close to the area.

Assuming these whales were feeding, it is logical to believe their motion in the water was relatively stationary. Judging from the whale blow in relation to the stationary mountains in the background, the movement of the vessel can be estimated. Now, I'm not an expert here but it appears to me the ship is moving through the scene at a pretty good clip. I bet over 10 knots or 11.5 MPH. They say the law is for not over 14 knots (16.1 MPH) around whales. Even the Princess Cruise line policy is for, in the Icy Strait area, only about 70 miles to the north of Kingsmill Pont, that their ships not to exceed 11.5 miles (10 knots) per hour when in this strait, the strait south of the national park, due potential whale activity. Perhaps these laws need changing.

The distance between the cruise ship and the whales is difficult to precisely determine here, depending upon type of camera lens and relative positioning of the two boats. However, it is pretty close.

Now assuming that the ship did or not maintain legal separation throughout all this is one thing, but common sense is another. What are the cruise ships up here for anyway, certainly not to get between ports A and B as fast as possible? What the public at large appears to demand is when something like this occurs is for the vessel to slow, way down, maybe even stop and idle the propellers. Allow the guests on board to enjoy the Alaska they paid to see. But no can do, imperative to make port in Juneau according to a sacrosanct schedule.

The cruise industry in Alaska has been taken to task for unsafe time constraints before. But then, human lives were in jeopardy. For instance, in 2015, after a fatal aircraft accident occurred trying to get back to the ship for a timely departure, the NTSB said this:

"Time Pressure. Another issue in this accident was the time pressure that was created by the agreement between the cruise ship operator and the sightseeing air carrier that if the carrier returned passengers too late to catch the ship, the carrier would be responsible, at its expense, for timely delivery of the passengers to the cruise ship’s next port of call, which might be several hundred miles away. In this accident the pressure to return the passengers to the ship in time clearly played a key role in the pilot’s decision to take a shorter but obviously more dangerous route back to the ship."

"The big picture would suggest that other participants are involved in this situation – the cruise ship operators – should work with the carriers in an effort to create a sightseeing program that eliminates financial incentives to carriers to take more risk. The cruise ship operators make the flight services available to the passengers, so they, in addition to the carriers, have a vested interest improving the safety of the sightseeing carriers by eliminating these adverse incentives."

Some suggest that the captain had no choice but not to slow down, I suggest that if the captain was concerned that reducing speed would also reduce rudder effectiveness, then the option of stopping the vessel would be desirable. Full reverse, when cruising at 20 knots, which they probably were not doing, would bring the ship to a complete stop within one to two nautical miles. This is not only what ship's officers have told me but one time on the Seven Seas Voyager we actually experienced it.

Then too, if he wanted to keep head, using differential thrust would have undoubtedly made the vessel swerve to the starboard more sooner than just using the rudders. In other words, full reverse on the starboard propeller and full ahead on the port.

My take is, pending the outcome of the investigation, the reaction seems to be a lot of assuming guilt. Just looking at that picture, the Eurodam could be closer or farther than 100 feet. And the back-of-napkin estimated speed is less than the legal requirement. There may be something there, or there may be nothing there. It seems premature to hang HAL based on nothing more than this video.

Not certain if there is going to be an "investigation" of this incident per se, where facts will be made available to the public, like in a Coast Guard or a NTSB investigation. Unless one considers this to be one---

"Our NOAA Office of Law Enforcement received a report Monday morning that the Holland America Line cruise ship Eurodam may have made contact with a pod of humpback whales as it was coming into Juneau, Alaska,”----Julie Speegle said. “Investigators have received a video of the incident and are reviewing it. They have also made contact with the cruise company regarding the incident.”

Maybe so, but in the meantime I guess we don't know for sure how far ahead of the ship the pod of whales was when first recognized on the bridge. If bringing the vessel to a complete stop wasn't feasible under the circumstances, therefore a decision was made to maintain headway, another option might have been using differential thrust in order to force the vessel further to the starboard more sooner than just relying on rudders. In other words, full reverse on the starboard propeller and full ahead on the port.

On the other hand, the Eurodam has pod propulsion, in that it has two fully azimuthing electric pods along with bow thrusters and zero rudders. It should have been able to make a significant turn to starboard even at very slow speeds.

This is a question not a statement of fact as I haven't been an officer on the bridge of a large ship. I have to chuckle, normally, up here, I am a big defender of the cruise industry, and I’m constantly being labeled as a shill for such. But I am also a lifelong Alaskan and a lot of us do pay attention. Unfortunately, it appears to a lot of us that this commentator may have a point. "Without the two videos, HAL would be claiming that it came nowhere near the whales or it make up some other convenient lie (and undoubtedly alter its logs) which cruise fans would merrily consume without questioning." HAL had been trying to tell us for years they do pay attention as well---To wit------

https://www.hollandamerica.com/blog/topics/hal-history/140-years-young-hal-launches-whale-protection-initiative/?fbclid=IwAR1GMASovFdhbbOREa3_vEma5KRIaV8HWv7sZr7zEupog6GADqH01NlQxME

I'm an engineer, but by no means expert on - or even particularly knowledgeable about - ship propulsion. That said, those thrusters and azipods put out a LOT of thrust - so much so that they have the potential to damage reefs and such just from the force of water displacement. So, to me anyway, it is conceivable that being even 100 feet away from a pod of whales was deemed to be too close to pull a maneuver that would essentially have turned thrusters directly toward the whale pod.

(And I could be completely wrong about that, too.)

Well, good point. However, I've never heard that thrusters damage the sea bed, but I suppose it could happen. More likely propeller turbulence could do such damage but the vessel would have to be in pretty shallow water for that to occur. You often see mud churned up from the bottom by propellers during docking maneuvers. Shouldn’t make any difference whether or not the propulsion is via pods or convention shafts and propellers though. There are a number of studies out concerning fragile microorganism’s survivability in harbors and even on the open ocean where heavy volumes of ship traffic occur. For instance---https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419111429.htm

Most of the attention seems to be on using anchors in harbors where a lot of coral exist. I.e. Cayman Islands. In addition, noise resulting from oil exploration activities and tanker and large cargo ships is receiving quite a bit in the way of study. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/science/oceans-whales-noise-offshore-drilling.html

In either event, I wouldn't think turbulence would be very damaging to large marine life much more than 100 feet away from the propeller source. If the ship was coming anywhere close to that distance it would have been in violation of the 300 foot limit from Humpback Whales. But if so, that is more justification for those proposing to increase this 300 foot limit to that already in effect for Orcas and preferably the rules protecting Right Whales.--- "100 yards away from humpback whales in Hawaii and Alaska waters, 200 yards from killer whales in Washington State inland waters, and 500 yards away from North Atlantic right whales anywhere in the U.S."

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