A new environmental regulation now in effect is going to have an impact on the number of cruise ships making Corner Brook a port of call.
The new policy, which is being enforced by Transport Canada in Canadian waters and the Environmental Protection Agency along the United States coastline, involves implementing an environmental control area along most North American coastal waters.
The policy currently stipulates that vessels operating within a 200-mile boundary of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts must burn fuel with a maximum of 1.0 per cent sulphur content. As of Jan. 1, 2015, the amount of sulphur burned by ships navigating these waters will have to be reduced to 0.1 per cent.
According to the Corner Brook Port Corporation, which orchestrates cruise ship visits to Corner Brook, the Canada-New England itineraries — of which Corner Brook is often included — fall within the designated zone affected by this policy.
The regulation places these destinations at a competitive disadvantage with other North American and global itineraries that are not subject to the stringent regulations. The restrictions have led to some cruise lines redeploying their fleets to other destinations such as Bermuda, the Caribbean, the Bahamas and the Mediterranean.
“This has had an impact on us for this year and next year and we expect it to have an impact for the next few years,” said Nora Fever, the Corner Brook Port Corporation’s business development manager.
Corner Brook is expecting to see nine visits this season, beginning with the first visit May 30.
Low-sulphur fuel is expensive and in high demand, so some cruise lines have shortened itineraries or have reduced sailing speeds to minimize the amount of fuel being used.
With Corner Brook at the eastern edge of the Canada-New England itineraries, it becomes less feasible to sail to western Newfoundland at a slower speed because of the distance and extra time it would take to arrive and return.
Fever said most of the larger cruise lines are preparing to re-fit vessels to either allow them to store low-sulphur fuel or to install technology that would enable ships to reduce the sulphur content of regular fuel. It may take several years for some of the cruise business to return to the Canada-New England itineraries, she figured.
“This is impacting the Atlantic Canada region as a whole,” said Fever.
The playing field may eventually become more level. In the coming years, other regions around the world will be adopting similar regulations, which Fever said will likely result in a further change to cruise ship deployment.