Harbour Authority Looks to Scrubber Technology to Improve Air Quality

After assessing the feasibility and air quality impact of shore power for plugging cruise ships into the electrical grid in Victoria, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA) has determined that shore power is not an effective solution for Ogden Point.

At an estimated cost of over $9.5 million, one side of one pier at Ogden Point could be outfitted, servicing less than one third of total cruise calls. The GVHA believes the benefits are limited relative to cost and effectiveness.

“Shore power is a very cost prohibitive investment with limited benefits for ports-of-call like Victoria,” says GVHA President and CEO Curtis Grad. “The best solution to meet regulatory requirements and protect local air quality, both in port and at berth, is on-board scrubber technology.”

Over the past year, the main cruise lines calling in Victoria have announced their commitment to install scrubbers on many of their ships. Carnival Corporation, which owns Princess Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Lines, has announced it is installing scrubbers on 38 of its vessels from those three brands. Royal Caribbean International has six working ships in line for scrubber installations. Norwegian Cruise Lines has also committed to scrubber technology and was the first to have scrubbers on new builds.

“Industry commitments to cleaner fuel and on-board scrubber technology have eclipsed shore power as a viable air quality strategy for Victoria,” Grad says. “Given that the vast majority of cruise ships operating in the Pacific Northwest will be equipped with on-board scrubbers by the end of 2015, it is not prudent to invest scarce financial resources at Ogden Point for marginal benefit.”

Air quality monitoring in James Bay demonstrates that elevated levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2), although infrequent, generally occur when ships are maneuvering in and out of port under their own engine power. As such, shore power only has a positive impact when ships are already berthed. Federal regulators have mandated changes within the industry through the creation of the North American Emissions Control Area (ECA). The ECA requires the use of lower sulphur fuels, or equivalent means such as scrubber technology, to meet prescribed emissions targets. Technological advancements will ensure continuity of good air quality while ships are within the vicinity of Victoria harbour, not just at berth.

Scrubbers are the term used to describe marine exhaust gas cleaning systems, which remove sulphur oxides from ships’ engines and boiler exhaust gases. Along with reducing 98 per cent of SO2 emissions, scrubbers also eliminate 80 per cent of particulate matter.