The cruise industry is preparing to fight against clean air regulations which will protect the U.S. and Canada from the nasty bunker fuels burned by hundreds of cruise ships.
Reuters reports that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is proposing a plan to create a buffer zone around the U.S. and Canada which will require low emissions from cruise ships.
We have reported on the cruise industry’s use of high-sulfur bunker fuels in prior articles:
The Reuters article explains that the proposed "Emissions Control Area" will extend 200 nautical miles around the coast of the two nations and set stringent new limits on air pollution from ocean-going ships beginning in 2015.
The use of high sulfur fuel creates environmental and health problems. In a prior article, we explained that cruise ships are using fuel containing up to 4.5 per cent sulfur. That is 4,500 times more than is allowed in car fuel in Europe. The largest ships emit as much as 5,000 tons of sulfur a year – the same as 50,000,000 cars, each releasing an average of only 100 grams of sulfur a year.
The sulfur comes out of ship funnels as tiny particles which are embedded deep into your lungs. The inhaled sulfur causes inflammation of the linings of the lungs, breathing problems, heart disease and cancer. The major shipping routes of cargo ships and cruise ships bring these deadly emissions right into the port and seaboard cities.
Take a look at the photograph below of Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas – smoking up a port in Alaska with bunker fuel. Nasty. Nasty. Nasty.
Holland America Line’s CEO, Stein Kruse, complained that the new air law "essentially means all the current fuel that we burn cannot be burned within 200 miles."
March 22, 2010 Update:
TreeHugger.com has an interesting article – Cruise Liner Pollution Kills Up To 8,300 People a Year in US and Canada, says EPA:
". . . the EPA argues that adopting the pollution controls would clear the air of particulates in port cities–and would save 8,300 lives a year. Which would mean that unregulated pollution from cruise lines is currently killing 8,300 people a year in the US and Canada . . .
Of course, the cruise industry execs are crying foul–they complain that the pollution controls would force them to pay up to 40% more for low sulfur fuels, and that they would no longer be able to burn any of the fuels they currently use within 200 miles of land. To which I say, Good.
To cruise ship executives: I am sorry that your fuel expenses will rise–perhaps you will have to increase the price of admission for your monolithic floating tributes to excess, in order to prevent some 8,300 people from dying every year for the crime of happening to live in port cities.
Okay, so that may have been a tad melodramatic–but it seems to me that there’s a pretty strong case for limiting pollution from ships, and that the industry’s case against doing so rests only on the complaint that it would be expensive. Thankfully for the 8,300 folks whose lives are likely to be saved by the measure, the proposal looks likely to be adopted by the IMO–leaving the world a slightly less polluted place."
Royal Caribbean’s Vision of the Seas cruise ship AlaskanLibrarian’s Flickr photostream