Cruise ship pollution tackled by Earthjustice

Cruise ships registered in the United States will have to use cleaner fuel as of 2011.

The US Environmental Protection Agency intends to regulate the emissions of the high-sulphur bunker fuel that is used by cruise ships. It emits a similar pollution to on-shore coal-fired power plants.

Technology to reduce emissions or a cleaner fuel system will be mandatory next year although to date over 400 steamships have been exempted due to their age.

Earthjustice is a law firm that represents environmental groups who have been lobbying for this and other measures for 15 years. Attorney Sarah Burt said that the EPA had the power to regulate all ships that entered US waters.

The new rules only cover 10 per cent of port traffic as most ships are not registered in the United States, and she noted that the rules are not as stringent as they could be as ships registered outside the US will not have to conform to the standards, putting American ships at a competitive disadvantage.


Bunker fuel creates smog, said Burt, who told reporters that cruise ships were unique in using the fuel.

‘After all the petroleum products have been refined out, it’s the sludge that remains – really heavy, really contaminated stuff. And they’ve been using this for a long time, even though engines of all other classes have been forced to run on distillate fuel or Diesel.’

The Environmental Protection Agency said it would ask the International Maritime Organisation approve the new fuel rules when it meets in March. Production and sale of bunker fuel in the US will be limited by the EPA in the interim.