Norway’s World Heritage fjords zero emissions rules update

2024-01-29T22:21:14+00:00 January 29th, 2024|Environment|

On 13th December, the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) announced recommendations for regulations for achieving zero emissions in the UNESCO-listed West Norwegian Fjords.

DNV Maritime’s Business Development Manager, Helge Hermundsgård (pictured), explained the implications of these regulations for cruise ship operators.

He has followed the rule developments for the past five years and has been engaged with the major cruise operators in the Green Shipping Programme, addressing realistic strategies for achieving the ambitions for emissions reductions and at the same time, ensuring that the ports maintain a position as an attractive cruise destination.

Explaining the background, he said that two of the West Norwegian Fjords, Nærøyfjorden and Geirangerfjorden, were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2005 and as a result, Norway was entrusted with conserving these areas.

In 2022, the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment tasked the NMA to devise plans for achieving zero emissions from cruise ships, tourist boats and ferries in these World Heritage sites and their surrounding fjords by 2026 at the latest, aligning with a Storting (Norwegian Parliament) resolution.

The new rules will only allow ships that use zero-carbon fuels to enter the fjords, which today would exclude most cruise vessels from visiting the area.

A supply chain for the necessary amount of zero-carbon fuels will not be in place by 2026 and will need time to gradually develop. For these travel destinations, this would mean a noticeable decline in their tourism income., There was huge feedback from the affected industries.

As a result, the NMA revised its proposal for the zero-emission regulations, which are not yet final and need Storting approval. This proposal contained two alternatives, both of which allow some use of biofuels until 2035, but with different criteria and conditions.

The NMA recommended the second alternative, which is more flexible and in line with most of the feedback received from the cruise industry. A final decision and wording is expected by the end of the first quarter of this year.

Alternative 1 retains the zero-emission target and accepts biogas in a transitional 10-year period, but also allows using the EU’s mass balance approach for biogas as provided in the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). This would mean minor changes, but a more practical application during the transition period.

Alternative 2 proposes to retain the zero-emission target but also accepts using liquid biofuels, such as bio-diesel or bio-methanol for a transitional period up until 31st December, 2035, using the definitions of and requirements for fuel sustainability, etc in RED and FuelEU Maritime.

The latter was broadly aligned with the majority of comments made during the hearing, he said.

For biofuels this means the RED’s basic sustainability requirements need to be met, along with at least 50–65% GHG saving, depending on the age of the fuel production facility. For renewable fuels of non-biological origins, the requirement is at least 70%.

To follow this transitional approach, ships must buy enough alternative fuel to match the energy they use in the affected area, even if they don’t use it there. They must also show proof of buying enough alternative fuel before they enter the fjords. Port State Control (PSC) may check for proof during their call or later.

Cruise operators who want to sail in these fjords from 2026 onwards will have to comply with the zero-emission regulation, either by using zero-carbon fuel or by buying enough alternative fuel to match their energy consumption in the regulated fjords.

They will also have to provide proof of their fuel purchase and be ready for a PSC inspection. Depending on the Government’s final decision, the alternative fuel may be limited to biogas, or include other liquid biofuels that meet certain sustainability and GHG-saving criteria.

As it is only two years until the expected entry into force date and itineraries are planned a long time in advance, cruise ship operators should check the fuel capabilities of their vessels.

If they have technically capable vessels, they should verify whether they will be able to secure the needed amount of biofuel. Preferably this is certified to prove their emissions release.

If none of these requirements can be met, cruise operators will unfortunately need to change their itineraries, potentially resulting in fewer port calls in general and the destinations losing income, which was feared.

Looking into the future regulations for the World Heritage Sites and their surrounding fjords, DNV recommended aligning this with the planning for compliance with FuelEU Maritime.

The reduced carbon in the regulated fjords could be used in a pooling strategy for vessels operating in EU waters, Hermundsgård advised.