The marine industry is under intense scrutiny within regard to its environmental performance, and cruise lines, perhaps more than other shipping businesses, have more to lose in terms of public image if they are seen to be lax about reducing harmful emissions.

The industry is steadily getting to grips with incoming requirements to burn low-sulphur fuel or to install end-of-pipe cleaning systems that cut SO2 emissions, which will require significant investment. However, it is also being forced to address other technologies, such as shore power, in the face of competitive and public pressure.

A notable feature of how the industry is tackling environmental issues is the growing collaboration between cruise lines and ports. A good example of this is Princess Cruises’ involvement in a shore power project in the US Port of Seattle.

When in dock at Elliott Bay this season, two ships in the Princess Cruises’ fleet will connect to the local power grid, instead of idling or using generator power. The Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess will use a newly installed electrical hook-up to run their systems, which will significantly cut diesel emissions.

“Collaboration is the key component in any project that addresses environmental considerations.”

It is expected that the ships will be able to cut their overall air emissions by as much as 30%. “Cruise liners and container ships realise that there is a lot of pressure on air emissions, and that many countries want to tackle global warming and poor air quality,” says Port of Seattle Commission president Patricia Davis. “The main advantage of shore power is that it cuts air emissions in the port, which is smack dab in the middle of downtown Seattle.”

For the port, the project represents the first step towards its long-term goal of protecting its inhabitants from the potential degradation in air quality arising from its success in attracting more cruiseship visits during the last six years. Visits reached a peak of 170 in the summer of 2005.

The cruise business is an important source of revenue for the local economy, but the port does not want to pay the price of environmental non-compliance or hostility among the local community towards the cruise industry. Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

The Port of Seattle is, in fact, a leading player in the Puget Sound Marine Emissions Inventory, which is the first in a series of collaborative ventures in support of voluntary emissions reductions from maritime activities. The project collects baseline data on many air pollutants and identifies their sources.

BENEFITS OF COOPERATION

Collaboration is the key component in any project that addresses environmental considerations, and the shore power project was entirely dependent on the close cooperation of all the stakeholders involved – Princess Cruises, the Port of Seattle and Seattle City Light & Power, as well as US federal authorities.

“It was really a collaborative effort,” notes Davis. “The two Princess ships were built to run on shore power and we were given a $50,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for landside equipment, which was paid to Seattle Light & Power to run the technology. The EPA wanted to jump-start this project.”

Given that installing shore power technology is a major investment, requiring the kind of systems needed to supply a skyscraper with electricity, no single entity could realise such a project on its own. So far, Princess Cruises is unique in its ability to bring such projects to fruition. Having invested $1.8m in the implementation of the necessary systems on the Diamond Princess and Sapphire Princess, it is the only operator capable of benefiting from shore power. Now, it is up to the cruise industry to follow the line’s example and put the necessary systems in place to promote the wider use of this technology.

“Whether shore power is used more in the future depends on whether ships are fitted for it,” says Davis. “It could become a stipulation for the port in the future, but we can’t change ships overnight and we want to maintain the cruise business. I see new ships being equipped because no one wants to be the bad guy.”

INCENTIVES TO CONTROL

As well as benefiting the port, the inhabitants of Seattle and the public image of Princess Cruises, there are potential cost incentives for cruise lines to pursue shore power, at least on some routes, including those along the Pacific Northwest coast of the USA to Alaska.

This is due to the lower cost of electricity in such areas. In Seattle, where there is extensive use of hydropower, electricity is relatively inexpensive. Princess Cruises will pay the same rate for power as other commercial users for the power it takes from Seattle’s grid, with each ship consuming an amount similar to a medium-sized hotel.

“More ports need to tool up to offer ships access to the landside power network.”

To take full advantage of shore power, however, it is not only the cruise lines that must invest. More ports need to tool up to offer ships access to the landside power network. So far, the port of Juneau, Alaska, which is also used by Princess Cruises, is the only other US port to provide a suitable hook-up, though the Port of Los Angeles-Long Beach in southern California offers shore power at one berth for container vessels.

Another example of a port taking affirmative action to improve the environmental performance of cruiseships is the Port of Stockholm, which recently awarded the Environmental Life-Buoy Certificate to Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas. The award celebrates the cruise line’s environmental initiatives, with the vessel being the first international cruise vessel calling at the port to use low-sulphur fuel.

The Jewel of the Seas is also the first cruise vessel to receive certification from Sjöfartsverket, the Swedish Maritime Administration, qualifying it for reduced harbour fees when it calls at Stockholm, where environmental issues have been on the agenda for many years. “In Sweden in general the environment is a very hot topic,” says Niklas Oscarsson, Port of Stockholm’s deputy harbourmaster.

“For the port, our berths are right in the city centre, and public and local environmental agencies are saying that ships must be clean or move port. We are one of the largest ports in the Baltic and we must have higher standards than the regulations require.”

Stockholm is already a Sulphur Emissions Control Area (SECA) by international law, but Stockholm has in place its own, more stringent environmental compliance standards.

To promote adherence, the port has introduced a system of incentives, whereby harbour fees can be reduced by up to 20% per visit if all the port’s environmental criteria are met. As low-sulphur fuel is an expensive commodity, cruise lines will no doubt take note of this potential saving.

FACING UP TO THE FUTURE

In both the examples cited above, effective collaboration between ports and cruise lines has been the foundation for success, with both sides showing that they are willing to invest in the long-term interests of the industry and the general population. “We cooperate closely with shipping lines and we must work together to combat emissions,” notes Oscarsson. “It is a hard issue because we need to make money, but we must also meet the demands of environmental regulators. The incentive programme is our way of achieving this balance.”

The success of Stockholm’s incentive scheme is supported by the fact that 93% of calls by ferry and cruise traffic are made by vessels that satisfy one or more of the port’s conditions for reduced emissions and, therefore, qualify for some reduction in harbour fees.

“Stockholm offers the marine industry a model that could be adopted elsewhere.”

Stockholm offers the marine industry a model that could be adopted elsewhere, with momentum coming from ports and cruise operators. “Cruiseships still have a lot of work to do, but the change is coming,” comments Oscarsson. “They tend to make changes when it doesn’t cost them too much, but the industry is on the right track. We are leading the way for ports, and shipping line owners are now asking why they don’t get similar discounts elsewhere.”

Stockholm may also follow the example set by Seattle and investigate the possibility of hooking ships up to the local power network. “Cooperation really is the important thing,” he adds. “We need to work together to find better ways of reducing emissions, and one of those ways will be to connect cruiseships to shore power. We may see more of that in the next three to four years.”

With shore power steadily attracting more attention and incentive schemes for environmental compliance likely to proliferate, the cruise industry could well be in the vanguard as far as emissions reduction is concerned. Princess Cruises and Royal Caribbean are leading the way and it is incumbent upon other operators to follow in their tracks. As long as ports, shipping operators and regulatory bodies continue to combine their efforts, the problems caused by emissions could be greatly reduced in the coming years.