Royal Caribbean has been testing scrubbers. (photo: Sergio Ferreira)With the ECA scheduled to go into full force in 2015, cruise lines may find that they will be granted extensions as long as they are working on compliance technology.

According to a statement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agency and the U.S. Coast Guard have been working with cruise lines and other stakeholders on technology development which may provide shipping companies temporary exemptions from the fuel sulfur standards while the development work is underway.

The EPA said it has to date helped establish technology trial programs (with an exemption from current fuel sulfur standards) for six Royal Caribbean International ships and one Norwegian Cruise Line ship to help promote the development of exhaust gas cleaning systems, which remove sulfur from the exhaust (rather than from the fuel). This has been closely coordinated between the EPA and the Coast Guard.

Holland America Line completed five years of testing a sea water scrubber on the Zaandam in 2012. While the testing resulted in design changes to almost every original aspect of the system, it also demonstrated that sea water scrubbing was a viable technology for removing SOx and particulate matter from diesel engines, according to a prepared statement.

The cruise line also stated that being a pilot test, the scrubber was installed on only one engine on the Zaandam and therefore would have done little for the vessel’s ability to comply with the ECA.

The project was said to have achieved its goals, but Holland America is not planning to install scrubbers on other vessels in its fleet at this time.

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

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

He noted a 1 to 3 percent fuel penalty in terms of running a scrubber.


Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Summer 2013