A recent investigation by the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) has found Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge did not violate state regulations while sailing off Kauai’s Napali Coast State Wilderness Park on May 2, 2024.

The inquiry began following social media posts alleging that the 2,908-passenger ship sailed too close to the coastline, prompting community concerns. According to Hawaii Administrative Rules for Napali Coast Ocean Waters, vessels carrying more than 50 passengers must remain at least 3,000 feet from the shoreline.

DOCARE officers from Kauai and Oahu launched a two-pronged investigation into the incident. When the ship returned to port in Honolulu, officers boarded the vessel to interview the captain and ship’s master.

Napali Coast (Photo Credit: Barbarajo)

The captain asserted he maintained full control of the vessel and that it remained in waters with a depth of at least 30 meters. However, he was unable to specify the exact distance from the shore.

Simultaneously, officers on Kauai sought out witnesses who could provide firsthand accounts of the ship’s proximity to the coastline. Despite efforts, investigators were unable to find any witnesses who could definitely confirm that the vessel breached the 3,000-foot seaward limit.

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DOCARE reported that some potential witnesses were unwilling to participate in the investigation, while others only had second-hand information or had seen the reports on social media.

After a thorough review, DOCARE determined insufficient evidence to support probable cause or to pursue any criminal or civil action against Celebrity Cruises.

Environmental Concerns Prompted Investigation

The Napali Coast is a major tourist attraction as a protected state wilderness park and holds significant cultural importance for the Hawaiian community. Known for its dramatic cliffs and pristine waters, the area featured in moves such as Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean is accessible only by boat, helicopter, or the Kalalau Trail. 

Hawaii Administrative Rules 13-256-41 state, “In no case shall a commercial vessel having a passenger carrying capacity of fifty or more passengers be permitted to operate within Napali Coast Ocean Waters.”

Before the pandemic, the Kauai Strategic Plan, a development plan aiming to manage tourism in Hawaii responsibly, highlighted resident concerns about over-tourism, which many believe exceeds the island’s capacity.

Celebrity Edge Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: GEORGE STAMATIS)

The 130,818-gross-ton Celebrity Edge, which also carries over 1,300 crew members,was sailing near the Napali Coast as it circumnavigated Kauai during a 10-night cruise that departed from Honolulu, Oahu, on May 1.

Calling on Hilo and Kailua Kona, Hawaii, before repositioning to Vancouver for the summer season in Alaska, the ship included the Napali Coast in its itinerary after it was unable to dock at Lahaina due to the wildfires last year.

During its voyage, community advocates indicated the ship was observed approximately 1,000 feet from shore. A cruise ship tracker recorded Celebrity Edge navigating close to Napali Coast and turning around while aerial footage suggested the ship disrupted the seabed.

Following the incident, Jason Redulla, chief of DOCARE, confirmed that residents and tour operators had filed multiple reports. However, after stating that “We found no clear and convincing evidence that the ship violated the 3,000-foot distance rule,” DOCARE has closed the case.

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