The industry is facing a flurry of potential regulatory changes. While many upcoming regulations have to do with environmental impact, others cover cabotage laws, passenger rights and usage taxes. Cruise Industry News will provide an overview and discussion of some of these regulations and taxes and how they may affect the industry, starting in this issue.
In late March, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is scheduled to address HOx and SOx emissions standards through its Marine Environmental Protection Committee. Similar meetings on particulate matter emissions are also coming up, as are discussions of C02 emissions by the IMO and European Commission.
Fuels burned in the Baltic have been limited to 1.5 percent sulfur since 2006 and in the North Sea since 2007. Elsewhere, ships are limited to 4.5 percent.
However, the directive limiting SOx in the Baltic and North Sea has been inconsistently enforced, according to Tim Marking, secretary of the European Cruises Council, because it only applies to vessels supplying "regular passenger service." Some ports apply the rule to cruise lines, others only to ferry services.
"The problem is, it's for each government to decide," Marking said.
The Marine Environmental Protection Committee will consider three options when they meet in late March: a world-wide cap on SOx at 1 percent, graduating down to 0.5 percent in coming years; retain the global cap at 4.5 percent and expand special areas where SOx is limited to O. l percent; or reduce the global cap to 3 percent and expand special areas to a maximum of 0.1 percent SOx. Whichever course is chosen, the regulations will likely take effect in 2012.
Cold ironing - using shore-side power for ships while in harbor - is also a hot topic in Europe, but so far, still in the discussion stage.
A bill in the Hawaii State Senate would prohibit ships from burning bunker fuel containing more than 0.1 percent sulfur within a five-mile radius, starting Dec. 31. The State Senate's Health Committee and the Energy and Environment Committee approved the measure in preliminary votes this week. It was not clear when the full Senate might hear the bill.
Another bill, introduced in the Hawaii House Of Representatives, would levee unspecified user fees and environmental impact fees for ever 500 passengers disembarked in the islands.
The new $50 tax in Alaska requires specially trained Ocean Rangers to travel on cruises in Alaskan waters. Last week, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) signed a $2.34 million contract with Jacksonville-based Crowley Marin Services to implement the Ocean Ranger program, starting in June.
Crowley will recruit and hire up to 35 trained Ocean Rangers - each having U.S. Coast Guard licenses as engineers - to travel onboard cruise ships and monitor compliance with environmental and safety standards. Breaches will be reported to ADEC. The organization is seeking an additional $4 million that will allow Ocean Rangers to monitor most Alaskan cruise voyages through 2009.
For each of the roughly 500 cruises in Alaska in 2008 and Z009, Ocean Rangers will board in Seattle, Vancouver, Ketchikan, Juneau or Skagway. All Ocean Ranger boardings require Crowley to give 24 hours advance notice to shipowners.
In a trial run of the program last year, Ocean Rangers made 114 overnight rides between May and September, boarding all 27 ships regularly operating in Alaska at least once, according to ADEC. The rangers reported only two incidents - one involving an oil leak and another, involving hull maintenance. Neither observation led to ADEC enforcement. Gershon Cohen, co-author of the Alaska Ocean Ranger bill and project director of San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute’s water pollution program, said he hoped other U.S. states and international governments created Ocean Ranger-type laws.
"We would like nothing better than to know the industry is doing everything it should," Cohen said. "Nothing would please me more than to find out the Ocean Rangers are bored to tears."
Cohen likened the program to monitors on fishing vessels that ensure protected species are not targeted. "If they're doing nothing wrong, there shouldn't be an issue with having the Ocean Rangers aboard," he said, adding that cruise ships should be held to the same water pollution standards as any land-based factory.
The California state legislature is considering an Ocean Ranger law similar to Alaska's. It would add a $1 per-day per-berth tax to ships. It's a far cry from Alaska's $50 tax, but could grow as a way to pay for the program.
Beyond environmental monitoring, California's Ocean Ranger would have "peace officer" status, giving them police powers at sea (while in U.S. waters). The International Cruises Victims Association (ICY) praised the proposed law, saying incidents of serious crimes on cruise ships were on the rise.
They also said the Ocean Rangers could coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security to deter potential terrorism attacks in U.S. ports of call.
John Hansen, president of the North West Cruisesship Association, said preliminary ADEC water discharge standards far exceed those for land-based operations.
The same 2006 ballot measure that created the Ocean Rangers also set standards for effluents from cruise ships. Early drafts of the exact standard to be used are much more stringent than for land-based effluents because they don't allow for diffusion and dilution; the water quality tests are performed at the point of discharge.
"We don't know exactly what the final permit is going to look like," Hansen said. "All municipal and other sources of wastewater going into the ocean in Alaska allow for this diffusion standard."
John Binkley, president of the Alaska Cruises Association, agreed, saying the city of Anchorage produced far more wastewater, and far dirtier than cruise ships.
'There would have to be 251 large cruise ships out there to meet the volume that they're letting out into Cook Inlet, where I'm looking right now," Binkley said.
Binkley said he expected a final decision on the effluent permit before mid-March. Hansen said if the draft permit stands, there is an appeals process open to the lines.
As the cruise industry expands around the globe, Terry Dale, president and CEO of Cruises Line International Association (CLIA) said what is most sought after is consistency.
"It can be extremely difficult to meet one regulatory standard in one place of operation and a completely different one in the next port-of-call," Dale told Cruise Industry News.
"We work diligently with those communities that we do business with to provide a regulatory environment that allows us to all to benefit from our common goals of responsible and sustainable tourism," he said. "Unnecessary or inconsistent regulation makes it difficult to achieve those goals."