As the North American Emissions Control Area’s (ECA) full effect inches closer in 2015, major cruise lines are in the final stages of receiving exemptions while working on scrubber technologies.

“The impact of the ECA is very critical,” said Tom Dow, vice president of public affairs for Carnival Corporation, speaking at the 2013 Cruise Canada New England Symposium in Boston.

Earlier in the day Stein Kruse, Holland America Line president and CEO, noted that costs would go up some 30 percent in Canada/New England with the company's itineraries as is, with the more expensive fuel.

A number of industry groups worked on an averaging program, Dow said, which was ultimately rejected by the Environmental Protection Association (EPA).

Averaging software shown by the Cruise Lines International Association at the 2012 Symposium has not been mentioned since last fall, seemingly also denied by the EPA.

“Late last year we got the final no-way no-how response from the EPA and Coast Guard and we shifted gears,” Dow continued, noting that a scrubber install on the Zaandam six years ago was deemed not practical.

“Many of us believe in scrubbers,” he continued.

The EPA is willing to grant exemptions from the ECA as long as the lines push to aggressively develop the technology.

At Royal Caribbean, two scrubber installations have shown promising results, but are still not ready for full commercial service, said Richard Pruitt, associate vice president safety and environmental stewardship.

Pruitt noted a 1 to 3 percent fuel penalty in terms of running a scrubber, and added the company was in the final stages of its exemption process.

“Long-term we are bullish on the (scrubber) technology but right now there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” Pruitt said.

Rumors have been circling about exemptions and lobbying progress for years, with little progress, but this is the first major step made toward keeping fuel costs down, and avoiding an interim dislocation effect for ships sailing in ECA zones such as Canada/New England and Alaska.