Cruise Ship Emissions

​The pollution from shipping and its effects on the environment and human health is of global concern and is being addressed on an international scale. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is progressively introducing regulatory measures aimed at preventing pollution from ships, including cruise ships. We are not yet at a point where there is an expectation of no emissions from shipping.

Australia is a party to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) which includes regulations aimed at preventing both accidental pollution and pollution from routine vessel operations. Annex VI: Regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships sets limits on sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhausts, prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances, and includes mandatory technical and operational energy efficiency measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

One of the more recent regulatory improvements introduced by the IMO is the reduction in the allowable sulphur content of fuel oil. From 1 January 2020, the maximum allowable sulphur content of fuel oil was reduced by over 85% from 3.50 per cent by mass (m/m)​ to 0.50% m/m. This is a significant step internationally towards improving air quality outcomes from shipping.

Cruise ships typically operate an approved Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS) to comply with the lower limit sulphur obligations when in Tasmanian waters. When vessels operate an EGCS it is common to see what looks like plumes of white smoke. In most cases, this is found to be mostly steam produced by those EGCS that utilise water as part of the exhaust gas scrubbing process.

The Commonwealth via the Australian Maritime and Safety Authority (AMSA), administers and undertakes compliance activities related to MARPOL Annex VI for all Australian waters including emissions from ships while berthed. 

The EPA may receive complaints about cruise ship air emissions and will initially liaise with TasPorts about concerns raised. Significant MARPOL Annex VI related matters are referred to AMSA to investigate. The EPA is not the regulator of the international emissions requirements so cannot investigate those matters, but can still investigate general pollution matters in Tasmania.

The EPA administers the Tasmanian Marine-related Incidents (MARPOL Implementation) Act 2020 which gives effect to other parts of MARPOL, including for oil, sewage, garbage, noxious liquids and packaged harmful substances. The Act applies to cruise ships in State waters.​