sulfur oxides by 920,000 tons -- an 86 percent reduction. A decade after that,
the agency forecasts that reductions associated with the emissions rules will
prevent between 12,000 and 31,000 premature deaths.
"It would not be an understatement to say that the establishment of this zone around North America has been one of the most important environmental programs EPA has put into place in the last 10 years," Grundler said. For now, all cruise lines that sail in ocean waters covered by the Emission Control Area, or ECA, are in compliance, according to the EPA. Most are simply buying and burning lower-sulfur fuel, despite the additional cost.
The real challenge, cruise lines and observers say, will be in January 2015, when the standards become significantly more strict -- and the already high cost of compliant fuel could potentially increase.
"There's no silver bullets here," said Tony Peisley, a cruise industry analyst based in the UK. "The cruise industry, one way or another, it's going to cost them."
But the benefit, Peisley said, is that with the cruise and freight shipping industries affected, the motivation to find or develop cost-effective solutions is great. He believes the most likely and immediate option is in devices that "scrub" exhaust of the nasty parts.
"You can use the cheap rubbishy fuel that they've been using and this filters out all the emissions stuff," he said. "That has to be the solution if they're not going to use the more expensive fuel -- which they don't want to do."
Already, Norwegian Cruise Line has announced that it will install scrubbers on its two new Breakaway Plus ships, coming in 2015 and 2017. And Pride of America, which spends all its time in the ECA that surrounds Hawaii, is having scrubbers installed now with plans to use them by the end of the year.
"It's not something you just slap into place," said Dan Farkas, the Miami-based cruise line's senior vice president and general counsel. "They are huge."
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., also based in Miami, has gotten the thumbs up from the EPA to average the low-sulfur emissions from eight ships with gas turbine-powered engines with ships that burn regular fuel. The company has also received exemptions to test scrubber technology on six ships, including the massive Oasis and Allure of the Seas.
Rich Pruitt, Royal Caribbean's associate vice president of safety and environmental stewardship, said the company is "bullish" on the prospects, but emphasized the massive and complicated undertaking to install scrubber devices on existing ships.
"It sounds easy until you start doing it," he said. "It's technically challenging."
While Carnival has previously announced in earnings calls that it planned widespread installation of scrubbers on its fleet, the company did not disclose that it was developing technology that had not previously been used on ships. The devices will both remove sulfur from the exhaust but also filter out particulate matter and black carbon, the company said.
The EPA's Grundler emphasized that the program is still in a trial phase, thought the agency is optimistic based on early results from a trial on Cunard Line's Queen Victoria.
"If the first ships prove out very well, it would not surprise me if Carnival accelerated their schedule," he said. "Conversely, if it doesn't work out, the permit will have a provision to end this trial. This is very much a demonstration program."
During the three-year period, Carnival has agreed to use clean shore power or the lowest-sulfur fuel while in port. And the company must provide detailed reports to authorities as the program moves forward.
David Pettit, a senior attorney at the National Resources Defense Council who handles air quality issues, said that while he is skeptical scrubbers will provide the compliance solution, only the end result matters.
"Our bottom line is if they figure out something that works, and the emissions are under the limit, I don't care how they do it," he said.
(c)2013 The Miami Herald
Visit The Miami Herald at www.miamiherald.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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