The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fined Carnival PLC $15,000 after one of its P&O Cruises ships, the Pacific Jewel, reportedly breached new low sulfur fuel regulations in Sydney Harbour.
A fuel sample taken by the ship’s crew and provided to EPA officers while the ship was berthed at the White Bay Cruise Terminal on the 26 February 2016 had a sulfur level of 0.293%, nearly three times the 0.1% sulfur limit, EPA said.
Carnival Australia, which operates P&O Cruises, has disagreed with the NSW EPA’s penalty notice.
In appealing against the finding, the cruise company has called on the EPA to review the penalty notice on the basis that it failed to take into account available technical information that would have confirmed the ship had completed the changeover to low sulfur fuel within the prescribed time period.
Carnival Australia said the company adhered to regulatory requirements wherever it operated and maintained that Pacific Jewel was using low sulfur fuel as required while berthed at White Bay Cruise Terminal.
“Pacific Jewel’s transfer to low sulfur fuel was conducted in compliance with the new regulatory regime for Sydney Harbour and the fuel transfer was fully documented on board the ship,” the company said.
“The single fuel sample submitted to the EPA for testing did not properly reflect Pacific Jewel’s successful transition to low sulfur fuel on the day in question and this has resulted in a wrong outcome.”
Carnival Australia also claims that the EPA had also not taken into account a number of other significant technical indicators that “would have confirmed the ship was using low sulfur fuel.”
According to EPA Acting Director Metropolitan Greg Sheehy, the ship’s crew had started changing over from using high sulfur fuel shortly after the ship had berthed at White Bay, but the sample showed that “the fuel being used in the ship’s engine during the EPA’s inspection did not meet the low sulfur fuel requirements.”
Sheehy said that Carnival PLC had advised the EPA that its P&O Cruises Australia ships will start their changeover from high sulfur fuel earlier to address the problem. “The EPA has taken a further three samples from the Pacific Jewel since the 26 February and all have complied,” he noted.
The company said there needed to be confidence in the process and it was particularly concerned about the time taken for the EPA to analyse fuel samples, which in Pacific Jewel’s case had amounted to some 20 days.
“In the light of this delay and in line with its commitment to regulatory compliance, Carnival Australia was now having ship fuel samples tested independently to ensure timely confirmation of the company’s adherence to the low sulfur fuel requirement,” it added.
The fine is the first to be issued under the new regulations which came into force from 1 October 2015. The regulations require cruise ships berthed in Sydney Harbour to use low sulfur fuel within one hour of berthing until one hour before departure.
Since the 1 October 2015 the EPA has inspected over 140 cruise ships, taken 78 fuel samples from engine fuel lines, inspected log books and changeover records, and also observed stack emissions.
“Figures before the regulation came into force showed that cruise ships produce around 40% of total fine particle emissions from shipping in Sydney Harbour. Therefore it’s vital that cruise ship operators adhere to the new regulation to protect Sydney’s air quality and the health of the community,” Sheehy said.
The EPA added that it has issued three official cautions to cruise ship operators, including one to Carnival PLC for a non-compliance by one of its other P&O Cruises ships.
“We are also investigating the results of samples from some other ships which may require regulatory action,” Sheehy pointed out.