New Emission Rules for Cruise Ships in U.S. Caribbean Territories

U.S. federal officials are looking to clear the air in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands by requiring cruise liners, tankers, and other large ships in the region to reduce their emissions or face penalties. These islands have some of the busiest ports in the Caribbean. The plan will take effect in late 2013.

Judith Enck, regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, explained that these islands were initially excluded from a plan adopted earlier this year by a United Nations agency to control emissions from large ships that sail within 200 nautical miles of the U.S. and Canadian coasts.

According to the Overseas Territory Review, the Port of San Juan in Puerto Rico sees more than 1 million cruise ship passengers every year, along with nearly 3,800 cargo ships laden with 11 million metric tons of goods. Some 800 cruise ships arrive every year in nearby St. Thomas, which is the largest cruise port in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Under the plan, ships will have to use cleaner fuel or install special equipment to reduce air pollution. As a result, the EPA estimates sulfur dioxide and fine particles that are linked to asthma and cancer could be cut by roughly 90 percent within a decade. Many big ships outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. government often run on fuels with high sulfur levels.

Under the plan, which needs approval from the United Nations’ London-based International Maritime Organization, EPA officials will randomly show up at ports to check whether ships are in compliance.

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