New EPA fuel rules could drive cruise ships out of Alaska again

They went away and then they came back when Alaska government officials raised then lowered their cost of doing business in Alaskan waters. Looking ahead, upcoming Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards may send cruise lines running once again.

It all has to do with regulations in the works that enforce “dramatically tougher pollution limits as early as January 2014” the EPA says of Ocean Vessels and Large ships.

“The tougher standards could add $50 million to $150 million in annual costs for Alaska routes by 2015, when the pollution clampdown gets even tougher” Andy Nelson, vice president of tour operations for Royal Celebrity Tours told the Puget Sound Business Journal.

It’s a topic cruise lines would rather avoid but have taken steps to comply and even go beyond existing regulations.After turning a cold shoulder to an Alaska that seemed determined to tax cruise ships out of the market, cruise lines returned this year to the land of the midnight sun with more ships, sailings and capacity.

“We are particularly appreciative of the efforts of Governor Sean Parnell and the Alaska state legislature that have resulted in meaningful progress toward resolving the challenges facing Alaska’s recovery as a cruise destination,” said Princess Cruises President and CEO Alan Bucklew.

Cruise lines often come under heavy criticism for environmental impact but have been making efforts to be good global citizens. “Plugging in” to shoreside power is a growing way ship emissions are being controlled.

Yes, new EPA fuel rules could drive cruise ships out of Alaska again. But is that what Alaska wants? Cruise lines say no; it’s big business to them and they are trying to comply with regulations. Tourists say no, they want to go there. Alaska residents say no, tourism runs in the hundreds of $ millions.