Cruise industry says clean fuel rules will increase passenger costs and impact itineraries

Skift Take

Any major shift in an industry is expected to encounter resistance and cruise companies are bemoaning the regulations that will increase costs and limit the destinations where ships can refuel.

— Samantha Shankman

Environmental regulations aimed at reducing sulphur emissions could force cruise lines to avoid certain destinations, according to a leading travel agent.

The rules will require ships travelling through established “Emission Control Areas” – which currently includes the Baltic, the North Sea and parts of the North American coastline – to burn fuel that emits no more than 0.1 per cent sulphur by 2015.

Nigel Lindgard, director of Reader Offers and a former marketing director at Fred Olsen, said that the correct fuel could be unavailable at certain destinations, forcing ships to stop elsewhere.

He added that the cost of cruises could also rise, as the greener fuel is considerably more expensive, and suggested it may make economical sense for some firms to retire their older, smaller vessels, rather than overhaul them, in order to comply.

“There is a worry over whether this fuel is available to purchase, so cruise ships may have to leave some areas of the world, because these ports won’t be viable if you can’t buy the fuel,” Mr Lindgard told delegates at the World Travel Market in London.

“At Fred Olsen, we had to part with a much loved ship Black Watch, which was very popular but not sailable with new environment laws. It’s now sailing in coastal waters in Venezuela rather than out at open sea, so it’s been recycled in a way.

“We will see several older ships disappearing – it’s good to move with the times, but I know some retail agents are worried because they are being replaced with smaller luxury ships and big new ones, instead of the medium ones which are going. There will be a hole left in the market.”

Last month Kevin Sheehan, the chief executive of Norwegian Cruise Lines, also criticised the more stringent environmental regulations, which he suggested would lead to an increase in the cost of cruising holidays. He added that cruise lines could choose to visit fewer ports too.

Stricter fuel regulations have also been blamed for a declining number of visitors to the Antarctic. Just 26,519 cruise passengers visited Antarctica between November and April, the lowest level in almost a decade and a drop of 22 per cent on 2010/11. It follows the International Maritime Organisation placing a ban on cruise ships burning or carrying heavy fuel oil in Antarctic waters. Crystal, Princess, Regent Seven Seas and Oceania responded by pulling out of the region, while the cost of other voyages rose.

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