The first Norwegian Fjord cruise season in which new regulations were in place has been completed.
The fjord Harbour Masters concerned said that they had received fewer complaints about smoke, but are looking forward to even stricter regulations in the years to come, according to an article on the Norwegian Maritime Authority’s news website.
Regulations for vessels sailing in the Nerøyfjord, Aurlandsfjord, Geirangerfjord, Sunnylvsfjord and Tafjord were tightened on 1st January this year. A prior study undertaken by the NMA concluded that stricter measures needed to be taken to reduce NOx and SOx emissions in particular.
“We only have one objection: they are not strict enough,” Rita Berstad Maraak, Harbour Master in Stranda municipality told the NMA.
She claimed that taking care of the Norwegian fjords is a national concern, and that the measures should be made applicable to all Norwegian territorial waters.
“It is crucial to avoid letting sound environmental policies become a cause of unreasonable competition. If the regulations are made to apply only to the world heritage fjords, the emissions will simply move elsewhere. We applaud strict measures, but they should apply to everybody,” she stressed.
Jostein Lange Bergset, Flåm’s Harbour Master, told the NMA that there has been less visible smoke this summer, but said that it was difficult to distinguish legal fumes from those that should not have been emitted in the first place.
“We have reported the examples that we have observed, but fortunately it seems that there has been less really nasty smoke this season,” he noted.
Katrin Blomvik, director of the Geirangerfjord World Heritage Foundation, recently attended an international conference held in Alaska under the auspices of UNESCO for all maritime world heritage sites worldwide.
“We are really excited to see the huge interest being taken in the Norwegian management of the world heritage fjords,” she said. Today there are 50 protected maritime heritage sites on the World Heritage List, and the West Norwegian Fjord Landscape is one of them.
“UNESCO refers to our scenic fjords as ‘the Crown Jewels of the Seas’. These areas are expected to represent the most outstanding marine management practices worldwide, thereby preserving the universal values for future generations and thus creating a model for other protected marine areas,” she explained.
From 1st January, 2020, NOx emissions rules will be tightened.
“We have received fewer complaints from local people and visitors with regard to the pollution generated by the cruise ships this summer. We expect the situation to improve over time, in line with the gradual tightening of the regulations,” Blomvik said.
There have been quite a few gloomy predictions for the Norwegian cruise industry as a result of the stricter regulations, but Erling Oppheim, director of the Nærøyfjord World Heritage Park, has no fears that they will cause Norway and the fjords to suffer as a tourist destination.
“Quite the reverse, the shipowners are teaming up with us. Experience from the collaboration in Alaska shows that it is fully feasible to impose strict requirements. We have invited the cruise operators to collaboration meetings to discuss how they can contribute, and we have engaged in a positive dialogue to promote the environment, climate and sustainable development of these areas,” Oppheim said.
Bjørn Pedersen, NMA’s head of the Department of Legislation and International Relations, said that many vessels will have difficulty complying with the requirements in the more stringent regulations, and that cancellations are likely to come.
“The proportion of vessels built before 2000 that have previously used the world heritage fjords as ports of call will be further reduced, and we regard this as a direct consequence of the environmental requirements. The good news is that there are new cruise ships that have the best and newest technology and comply with the requirements, and they will start arriving as early as next year,” Pedersen explained.
The regulations will be gradually tightened over a five-year period, in order to enable the cruise industry to conform to the increasingly strict requirements. The first requirement for reduced NOx emissions will enter into force next year. A further tightening will come in 2022, while the strictest requirement regarding NOx emissions will be introduced in 2025, which will entail an 80% reduction in NOx emissions.
“Although we have seen improvements already this year, the major gains will come in the years ahead. We are therefore now considering the possibility of introducing stricter environmental requirements for shipping in Norwegian waters in general, not only in the world heritage fjords,” Pedersen warned.