This beautiful scene, captured aboard the Zuiderdam
as she cruised Tracy Arm Fjord, is poised
to cost a lot more in 2012.
Photo © Aaron Saunders

Alaska, it seems, just can’t get a break.
First, there was the controversial head tax approved in 2006.  After much legal and political maneuvering by cruise lines and government officials alike, the amount lines are charged per-passenger was dropped substantially last month from the previous $50.

Now, a change in emission regulations set to take effect in 2012 are poised to add $100-million in costs to Alaska cruises – an amount that will be passed along to you.
The Vancouver Sun reported that the cost for cruise lines to meet the incoming regulations breaks down to roughly $100 per person – far more than the $50 head tax imposed by the state of Alaska in 2006 that saw vessel numbers fall off dramatically.
At the heart of the problem: Canada and the United States, in conjunction with the International Maritime Organization, have created an “Emissions Control Area” (ECA)  that covers a 200-mile offshore limit, and is poised to come into effect in 2012.  Ships sailing within the ECA are required to use low-sulphur fuels, and the restrictions are heavy: in 2010, the sulphur limit in 2012 will be one per cent, and in 2015 that number drops to 0.1 per cent.
Currently, a sulphur content of 4.5 per cent is allowable, though most ships average between 1.8 and 1.5 per cent.

Alaska cruises, as well as voyages up the Eastern Seaboard to Canadian and New England ports stand to suffer the most, simply because they never leave the exclusion zone of two-hundred miles.  Caribbean-bound cruises can carry two types of fuel, enabling them to switch over to more cost-effective fuel once they’ve sailed out of the affected zone.
In Victoria, BC – home to numerous cruise ship calls during the months between May and October – the James Bay Neighbourhood Association has complained publicly in the past about the emissions from ships docked at the city’s Ogden Point terminal.  With these new regulations, their concerns might become a thing of the past.
Or, a multi-billion dollar industry might simply choose to sail away in favor of more cost-effective destinations.
 

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