Carnival Corp. will spend $180 million on new exhaust cleaning technology on 32 ships to help it meet new environmental standards that threaten cruise itineraries near coastlines in North America. The company reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada for an exemption from the new emission regulations that require a more expensive, higher grade fuel.
To secure the exemption, Carnival agreed to implement by mid-2016 the new "scrubber technology" that removes sulfur and substantially reduces particulate matter and black carbon. When the exhaust gas cleaning technology is installed and operational, the ships are expected to exceed standards within the North American Emission Control Area (ECA). The new International Maritime Organization standards place a cap on sulfur within ECAs at 1 percent, which took effect in North America in 2012 and will lower to 0.1 percent in 2015.
The standards threaten cruise itineraries near North American coastlines because they forced lines to use a costlier fuel that more those routes more expensive.
"This is a significant accomplishment as well as an important milestone for our company," said Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald. "Working together with the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada, we have developed a breakthrough solution for cleaner air that will set a new course in environmental protection for years to come."
The 32 vessels included in the trial are operated by Carnival Corp. brands Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Cunard. Carnival still needs permits from its flag states to allow the trial, but if approved would allow the vessels to use the fuel that "makes the most sense from an environmental and economic perspective," the company said.
Carnival plans to combine two technologies that have been successfully used in power plants, factories and vehicles to clean - or scrub - the exhaust from high-sulfur fuel. For the first time, this combination is being developed to accommodate restricted spaces on existing ships. Carnival expects the technology to have "an immediate significant public health benefit." Ships also will plug into shore power that allows them to turn off diesel engines and connect to local electric utility power while in some ports in the U.S. and Canada.
Carnival said it will explore the possibility of expanding the scrubber technology beyond the initial 32 ships. Carnival Corp., the largest cruise company in the world, has 10 brands that operate 102 ships with seven new ships scheduled to be delivered between May 2014 and April 2016.