Although cruise lines are always improving their features and services, a new requirement in Kai Tak, Hong Kong over shore power has companies wondering whether or not they will be able to send their fleets to the port.
Several major cruise lines have expressed concerns over being required to plug into electric power from land while their vessels berth at the Kai Tak cruise terminal because most ships are not equipped for shore power. As an alternative, the cruise companies are willing to consider switching to low-sulphur fuel while berthing, which will soon be mandatory regardless.
Some companies do not believe they should have to change anything about their vessels to accommodate to Kai Tai’s requirements, and believe that the cleaner fuel changes will more than suffice.
“I don’t think the government should make [shore power] mandatory,” said Pier Luigi Foschi, chairman and chief executive of Carnival Asia, at a cruise forum in Hong Kong on Jan. 22. “It is a must for ships built within the past five years … but not necessarily the others.”
Foschi’s comment followed an explanation that six of eight cruise ships due to call at the port between June and April 2014 are not equipped for shore power. Of all the vessels under the Carnival Corp. brand that are scheduled to visit the port, only the Diamond Princess (Princess Cruises) and Queen Mary 2 (Cunard) are able to connect to the power grid on land while berthed.
This type of connection is becoming increasingly popular in the United States as well. Especially in States that are environmentally-aware of the damages that high-sulphur fuel can cause while ships are berthed.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying committed the government to installing shore power at Kai Tak last week but did not explain how soon it will become effective. There is no word on whether shore power will be mandatory for cruise ships when it becomes available.
According to Friends of the Earth in Hong Kong, emissions from cruise ships may affect as many as 280,000 residents near the terminal, so the group is pushing the government to make shore power mandatory, not just for environmental reasons, but to protect those on land.
Royal Caribbean International also commented on the issue. Liu Zinan, Royal Caribbean Cruises’ regional vice-president for Asia and managing director for China, said the company would apply the same standard as Europe or America to cruise ships that are sent to Hong Kong, but did not comment on which vessels were ready for this kind of power.
In the United States, California requires a percentage of visiting cruise ships to use shore power. In New York, the Brooklyn cruise terminal also participates with certain larger cruise vessels to use shore power. However, according to Friends of the Earth (Britain), most of the 15 major cruise companies are not yet ready for shore power.
This isn’t the first time cruise ships are called out for their lack of environmental awareness. At Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our cruise lawyers have seen several maritime environmental organizations complain over the lack of regard certain lines have over the environment or marine life and are urging companies to “go green” and consider alternatives that will not lead vessels to leave a negative impact on the marine habitats they traverse.
Kai Tak is expected to receive its first vessel, Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, in June.