CBC is reporting that new emissions regulations, set to take effect for all cruise ships sailing to or from Canadian waters, have already caused their first ‘casualty’ as UK-based Fred.Olsen Cruises announced they would no longer visit Canada’s Eastern coast when the regulations take effect in 2012.

At the heart of the issue is the sulphur content in the fuel used by cruise ships.  Currently, operators are allowed to use fuel with a sulphur content between 1.5 and 2.5 percent.  In 2012, that number reduces by a full percent, followed by a further 0.1 percent reduction by 2015.

So why is this a big deal?  In the case of Fred.Olsen, the line claims the reductions will cost it an extra $17,000 per day – making calls at Canadian ports economically unattractive compared to the United States, which currently has no such regulation in the works. 

Cruise lines are also being told they can fit their ships with plug-power facilities instead, which will allow them to plug into shoreside power systems like that in Vancouver.

While it’s admirable the Canadian Government wants the industry to use cleaner-burning fuels, it is surprising that such a bold move would be made during the middle of a recession and while the travel market is particularly volatile.  It’s also surprising given that the Port of Vancouver has been loosing cruise ship traffic hand-over-fist to Seattle for the past few years now.  On the other hand, popular Maritime ports like St. John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia are poised to celebrate their busiest cruise ship seasons this year – something that could rapidly change if the Canadian Government doesn’t change or relax these regulations before their 2012 debut.

What’s interesting about these new regulations is they seem to focus almost exclusively on cruise ships.  Interesting, considering that today in Vancouver there is one ship tied up at Canada Place, and roughly twenty cargo, bulk, LNG, and other types of ships in the harbour – presumably none of which offer shoreside power hookups like the ship at Canada Place. 

Using cleaner fuels is a good thing.  It’s just unfortunate no one may be here to see it.


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