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September 17, 2013
Cruise company will install advanced emissions controls

Carnival Incorporated, the world’s largest cruise ship company, has reached an agreement-in-principle with the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard to undertake a trial program under which 32 Carnival cruise ships will be exempted from low-sulfur fuel requirements in exchange for the installation of emissions controls.  The controls comprise both sulfur oxide (SOx) scrubbers and diesel particulate filters, and the program will mark the first time this combination of equipment will be installed in the confined spaces of oceangoing vessels. 

The trial program will apply in North American and Caribbean emission control areas (ECAs).  ECAs were developed by the United States and Canada through an agreement with the International Maritime Organization with the objective of significantly reducing air pollution from large vessels.  Expected emissions reductions in ECAs by 2020 are 320,000 tons of nitrogen oxide , 90,000 tons of particulate matter, and 920,000 tons of SOx.  ECA regulations include a 1.0 percent limit on the sulfur content of fuel, which took effect in North America in 2012.  In 2015, the limit will be 0.1 percent. 

Exceeding requirements

Under the trial program, Carnival will install sufficient exhaust gas cleaning capacity on each ship to meet or exceed the 2015 ECA fuel sulfur requirements.  The exhaust gas cleaning systems will be installed during vessel dry docking according to a specific schedule—9 ships in 2014, 16 ships in 2015, and 7 ships in the first half of 2016.  Once installed, the exhaust gas cleaning systems will be employed while each ship is operating in the ECA.  During the period of the exemption, Carnival agreed to limit the sulfur content of heavy fuel oil used in these ships at 2.5 percent to 3.1 percent, depending on the geographic area in which the fuel is purchased.

Also, when ships are berthed during the period of the exemption, Carnival agreed to use shore power or marine gas oil with a fuel sulfur content no greater than 0.1 percent.

Fuel that ‘makes the most sense’

“In addition to exceeding stricter air emission standards – a significant public health advancement – Carnival’s technology will help the company mitigate escalating fuel costs,” said Carnival.  “The agreement-in-principle would enable an exemption for Carnival to use the fuel source that makes the most sense from an environmental and economic perspective.”

Carnival says that as a next step it will be requesting permits from flag states to allow for the trial of the exhaust gas cleaning technology to proceed.  The company adds that it is exploring the possibility of expanding the installation of the emissions control technology beyond the initial 32 ships.
Click here for an EPA/Coast Guard letter to Carnival describing the agreement-in-principle.

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