At least three ports on the West Coast of the U.S. are in the process of developing ways for cruise ships to hook up to on-shore electrical power - called "cold ironing" - while in port, as a way to mitigate air-quality issues created by diesel-engine emissions.

"We've just started the process," said Eric Caris, assistant director of marketing at the Port of Los Angeles. "We estimate that it will take us about 14 to 18 months before we can hook up the first vessel." Caris said that theoretically, cruise ships would connect to the existing power grid owned and operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power via a transformer. "We're looking at making the necessary accommodations at the wharf level," Caris said. The port does, however, along with the Port of Long Beach, offer alternative maritime power to cargo ships.

The Port of San Francisco's Cruise Terminal Environmental Advisory Committee (CTEAC) - an association of representatives from the cruise and shipping industries as well as from various environmental advocacy groups - will conduct a cost­ benefit analysis of cold ironing's feasibility over the next three to four years in concert with a $400 million cruise-terminal redevelopment project slated to go online in 2008.

"We might require a substation, which is a big drawback," said Gerry Roybal, the port's maritime marketing representative, though he added that in and of itself wouldn't be a reason to not to go ahead with providing coid ironing. But regardless of how the power is supplied., it's an expensive proposition, costing the ports - and ships - millions of dollars. But Cans said that it's all part of the cost of doing business. "It's not a revenue-making venture (for the ports)," he said. "But it is something we have a strong desire of accomplishing... it's a great opportunity from an admissions standpoint."

Meanwhile, the Port of Seattle is expected to make an announcement very shortly on the issue, and a spokesperson at the Port of San Diego said that alternative power for cruise ships is something that it will consider as part of a terminal expansion that has yet to get underway.

Princess Cruises was the first line to utilize cold ironing in Juneau, where its ships connect to shoreside power. How many other lines follow suit remains to be seen.