ECA regulations threaten ferry lines

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The public could see increased prices and greater road congestion while ferry operators will face service cuts and route closures following the introduction of new emission control area (ECA) regulations – ferry companies have warned MPs in advance of a Transport Select Committee meeting, to take place tomorrow (October 25th).

The International Maritime Organization and EU member states want ships to burn fuel with a low 0.1% sulphur content from 2015, instead of the 1% sulphur content currently in use in the designated North West European Emissions Control Area.

Ferry companies including Brittany Ferries, DFDS Seaways, P&O Ferries and Stena Line have gone public, stating the new rules will have far reaching implications, including fuel cost increases by up to 87% and the closure of ferry services on the English Channel, North Sea and in the Baltic. The companies claim further, unintended consequences of this will be the forcing of thousands of lorries back onto the roads, with threats to seafaring and port jobs if ferry services close down.

William Gibbons, Director of the Passenger Shipping Association, said: “While we fully support the good and green intentions of the changes, we are having to tell the Transport Select Committee that the proposals are unrealistic both on grounds of cost and in the time available to us.

“We are being told that there is no incentive for the oil companies to invest in refining facilities to manufacture the fuel we need as they can make bigger profits elsewhere. That forces us to look at other fuel solutions such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) but there is no supply chain in place and this is likely only to be viable for new ships from 2020. The only technical alternative is to fit ships with sulphur scrubbing abatement technology but this, after years of trials and development, is still not ready for commercial roll-out and will not be a realistic alternative to ultra low sulphur fuel by 2015.”

John Garner, fleet director of P&O Ferries, said: “The decision by the International Maritime Organization to limit the sulphur content was not preceded by a proper impact assessment. It has become increasingly obvious that the decision has a number of unforeseen consequences which is why we and others are presenting our case to MPs tomorrow.”

Christophe Mathieu, Group Strategy and Commercial Director at Brittany Ferries, said: “Our longer routes, which have been extremely effective at moving freight off the roads as well as providing valuable links with certain outlying regions of Europe, will be particularly vulnerable to these new unrealistic measures. Our annual fuel costs will increase by tens of millions of pounds and there’s the possibility of up to 1,000 jobs losses in our ports and the wider community. We support these changes but need more time.”

The ferry companies are urging the UK government to bring forward a full review and impact assessment presently planned to take place three years after the new regulations are implemented.