The California Air Resources Board has passed a measure, pending final approval that is meant to reduce emissions from cruise and cargo ships moving in and out of California.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, ships coming within 24 miles of the California coastline will be required to use cleaner-burning fuels ( or other measures) to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx) from the use of diesel engines, the board said.

A public information officer for the board, said its team of inspectors will do periodic sweeps of cruise ships that are suspected of not complying with the regulations.

"Obviously we're not going to look at every ship," he said. "We're going to try to focus on those that are in violation, and how we'll determine that is through records and maybe anecdotal reports from people like harbor masters or other people who are trained in what to look for." He also said "roaming inspectors" will be making the rounds at California ports.

The 24-mile mark was determined by tests conducted by the board that showed emissions can be detected on land by ships that far out in the ocean.

The officer said the board would file a civil lawsuit in order to determine and levy penalties against shipowners who are found in violation of the regulations. Fines would be determined by a judge.

"One of the advantages of civil court is that we can go in and tell a judge that the extra cost of the cleaner burning fuel is, say, $3,000, so we could ask the judge to make the fine big enough so that it's worth it for the owner to use the cleaner fuel," the spokesperson said, adding that cruise ships would have to carry the different fuels onboard.

The board will present the regulations to the Office of Administrative Law within the next six months for final approval; if that body doesn't give the go-ahead to the measures as written, the board would then make adjustments and re-submit for approval.