Two city council members in New York City are introducing a bill that would require cruise ships to utilize shore power when docked at the city’s cruise ports, rather than burning fuel that creates harsher emissions.

While the claims of the legislators seem extreme and they are clearly not in favor of cruise ships at all, their concern is a step in the same direction as cruise lines are taking toward better sustainability.

A new law being introduced by two Democratic city councilmembers in New York – Alexa Avilés (Brooklyn) and Erik Bottcher (Manhattan) – would require visiting cruise ships to hook up to shower power when docked at either the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal (Red Hook) or Manhattan Cruise Terminal.

The ports are in the councilmembers’ respective districts, and the lawmakers have legitimate concerns for their constituents, as reported by amNY.

“What would people say if right behind us, right now, there were 34,400 trucks idling?” asked Bottcher said at a rally near the Red Hook cruise terminal on Monday, September 18. “There’d be a lot of cameras here right now, and guess what? Something would be done about it. But that’s how much pollution is being generated by these ships.”

MSC Meraviglia Arrives in New York (Photo Courtesy: MSC Cruises)

While there is no citation for where the comparison to “34,000 trucks” originated, it is true that docked cruise ships must still run their engines – and thereby be burning fossil fuels – while docked in order to generate electricity onboard.

Different ships of different sizes have different fuel efficiency, however, but there is no denying their emissions in an already crowded city can be problematic.

Read Also: Cruise Line Completes Shore Power Capability for Entire Fleet

The bill would not ban cruise ships from visiting the ports, but would simply require them to hook up to shore power while docked, thereby permitting them to turn off their engines and dramatically cut emissions.

It must be noted that the Manhattan cruise terminal does not have shore power available, though the Brooklyn terminal has had the capability to connect to cruise ships since 2017. The connections are not frequently used, however, because the electrical sockets are not compatible with every ship that docks there.

This could be easily fixed with a “mobile cable positioning device” that is expected to be in place by autumn 2024, which hopefully will encourage additional ships to connect while berthed.

Queen Mary 2 in New York (Photo Credit: ATGImages / Shutterstock)

As part of the bill, access to the local cruise terminals would be limited to ships that agree to connect to shore power, and other vessels would not be permitted.

At the moment, ships from MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises, Cunard Line, and Marella Cruises are the most frequent to berth at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America Line, Viking Cruises, Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, Silversea, Oceania Cruises, and Carnival Cruise Line are most common at the Manhattan Cruise Terminal.

There is no mention of requiring the Manhattan terminal to upgrade to shore power, nor how such an upgrade would be financed – whether through local taxes or public/private partnerships with cruise lines.

It must also be noted that the bill does not mention other vessels, such as cargo vessels or ferries, but is limited to the impact of cruise ships.

As more cruise lines work toward greater sustainability in their operation, many new vessels are built equipped to hook up to shore power and older vessels are being updated to accept shore power where feasible.

While not all vessels can be suitably updated, this is a great move toward more eco-friendly cruising and the industry’s overall goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Similarly, more cruise ports are becoming equipped to host ships via shore power, and such cooperation will be essential to ensure greater sustainability all around.

Other options that cruise lines are implementing include testing more efficient biofuel as a traditional fuel alternative, making better use of biodigesters to minimize onboard food waste, and adjusting itineraries and cruising speeds to maximize fuel efficiency.

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