Cruise Companies Want Congress On Board with Alternate ECA Rules

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Wednesday May 2, 2012

The cruise-ship industry is reported to be lobbying Washington to press the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get on board with its proposal for alternative North American Emission Control Area (ECA) rules.

On its current course, the North American ECA will become enforceable in August 2012 and an industry study has said, in its current form, the regulations will result in fewer cruises to Alaska, Canada and the Caribbean, plus job losses across an industry some 330,000 personnel strong in the U.S. alone.

Whether the cruise companies pass on the cost of compliance to its customers, potentially weakening demand, or they soak up the premium themselves, their profits look destined to take a hit.

While the industry is not opposed to the ECA per se, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) wants use an emissions-averaging scheme instead of the current plans which simply say fuels with no more than 1% sulfur must be used within 200 nautical miles of the coast line.

This would allow continued use of the same high-sulfur fuel used now but at strategic points based on factors such as weather conditions and location, then switching to low sulfur fuels where they would be most beneficial, for example, near heavily populated areas.

The EPA and Coast Guard have made written opposition to the plan, saying that it is "unacceptable because it would result in overall higher emissions and doesn’t meet public expectations of uniform delivery of health and environmental benefits for citizens of the United States."

Short Sea Shippers are also looking for changes to the soon to be enforced regulations.

Paul Cozza, President of Beverly, Massachusetts headquartered CSL International (CSL), recently told a House of Representatives Transport Committee that a 200 mile ECA is too stringent for the lower horsepower vessels used by coastal transporters such as CSL.

Based on data from a CSL commissioned study, Cozza recommend the North American ECA be reduced to 50 miles for 0.1% sulfur fuels for vessels of less than 20,000 horsepower in 2015 as use of the low-sulfur fuel beyond that distance may not provide any appreciable environmental benefit.

Concerns voiced by groups representing some other shipping sectors, such as the World Shipping Council (WSC), are limited to the availability of appropriate specification fuel.

Chris Koch, president and CEO of WSC, whose membership represents 90 percent of global container shipments and includes the world's ten largest container shipping companies, said, "So long as one percent sulfur fuel is reasonably available, our members certainly intend to comply."

The EPA says the overall cost of the North American ECA is estimated at $3.2 billion in 2020 and in that same year it estimates the monetized health-related benefits in the U.S. to be up to $110 billion.