Royal Caribbean – Royal Caribean – Why PortMiami still allows cruise ships to spew emissions | Fintech Zoom
Dark gray clouds of exhaust billowed out of the smokestacks of the Harmony of the Seas cruise ship on a recent Wednesday as the ship restocked and refueled amid an industry-wide quarantine. From a grassy perch in South Pointe Park at the tip of Miami Beach, the fumes contrasted with the cloudless blue sky above and the blue windows of the downtown Miami skyscrapers just beyond.
A single cruise ship docked at PortMiami — the busiest cruise port in the world — spews about 48 metric tons of greenhouse gases into the air during a 10-hour visit — equal to the emissions of about five houses in an entire year, according to EPA data. In a pre-pandemic year, cruise ships at the port emitted as much greenhouse gas as almost 7,000 houses annually — a bigger city than Pinecrest.
The fumes are a byproduct of heavy fuel oil, among the dirtiest fuel sources in the world, used almost exclusively by the shipping industry. Luckily, the dangerous fumes that can cause serious illness are largely blown away by Miami’s famous ocean breezes. But they linger in the atmosphere, contributing to the climate change that is quickening the demise of the port and the city itself. In coming decades, climate change is expected to slosh Miami with several feet of sea rise and a temperature spike.
The county has known about this problem for more than a decade but has done nothing to address it.
Ten years ago, PortMiami proposed installing a technology to reduce cruise ship emissions. The tech, known as shore power, allows ships to turn off their engines and plug into the land-based power grid, a much cleaner alternative to idling ship engines while docked. Seven U.S. ports already have shore power, and many European ports are required to have it by 2025. At least 15 shore power-capable ships have stayed at PortMiami hundreds of times since 2011, emitting avoidable greenhouse gases into the atmosphere instead of plugging in, according to a Miami Herald analysis of port dock reports.
But that proposal has never left the drawing board. Shore power remains on the long list of proposed public investments that county leaders continually have put aside.
In the meantime, Miami-Dade has invested $700 million to construct five architecturally stunning new cruise terminals. None of the projects include shore power.
Cruise lines and Florida Power and Light say they’re just waiting for the county’s green light.
Cruise companies have long touted their multimillion-dollar investments in outfitting vessels with plugs and say they are ready to convert ships that visit Miami as soon as shore power is available.
“It’s a win-win in our view,” said Tom Strang, Carnival Corporation’s senior vice president of maritime affairs. “It’s cleaner to the port; it’s better for us. We aren’t contributing to local emissions. … We’re just waiting for more ports to provide the power.”
Virgin Voyages agrees. “Shore power, we are very much in favor of it,” said Tom McAlpin, CEO, at the recent groundbreaking for the brand’s new PortMiami cruise terminal. “We’ve designed our ships with the ability to do it. We would have to make some modifications, but the infrastructure is there. We haven’t done the final part of it because shore power isn’t available here in Miami. If we were able to get power here, we would certainly use it.”
FPL says it stands ready to install the power hookups at the port. The cost of installing the technology is dwarfed by the annual handouts ranging from $2.3 million to $9 million that PortMiami regularly gives cruise lines as a reward for bringing a certain amount of passengers.
So what’s the holdup?
“I don’t have an answer for that,” said PortMiami Director Juan Kuryla. “I don’t know.”
Shore power — it works
Shore power has been around for more than 20 years, and ports around the country have recognized that the technology does exactly what it promises: cuts down on toxic emissions.
In the U.S., Juneau, Alaska, initiated the technology in 2001 after residents complained about cruise ship exhaust. Since then, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego and Brooklyn have all installed shore power.
Oceangoing vessels are often the largest source of port-related emissions, and cruise ships are among the biggest emitters of all vessel types because they require so much energy for hotel operations in addition to basic propulsion. Since installing shore power in 2004, the Port of Los Angeles cut greenhouse gas emissions for oceangoing vessels by a third. In Seattle, they dropped 29%. Emissions of other toxic gases also decreased dramatically.
Unlike L.A., San Diego and Long Beach, which publish regular emissions inventories and reduction targets for their ports, Miami-Dade has never conducted a port emissions inventory, and is completely in the dark about how much carbon and other toxins the port emits each year.
PortMiami does not have any emission reduction targets, and Miami-Dade County didn’t isolate the port’s emissions in its 2017 greenhouse gas inventory, although it does show that transportation (mostly by car) makes up half of the county’s total emissions.
Broward County’s Port Everglades was the first port in Florida to conduct an emissions inventory in 2015. It found that cruise ships, which make up only 22% of the ships stopping at the port, are by far the biggest carbon emitters, responsible for 55,258 metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions that year. That’s equivalent to the energy used by 6,376 homes in a year. The next biggest polluter: tankers, which emitted 31,616 metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions per year — even though they account for far less traffic.
The report predicts that Port Everglades’ emissions could nearly double by 2050.
An EPA study of Port Everglades’ options to reduce emissions not only found that switching to shore power was the most effective way to cut pollution, but it also found that shore power was nearly three times as effective as having ships switch to liquefied natural gas. Most major cruise lines — including Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Group and MSC Cruises — are building their new ships to run on LNG to reduce emissions.
Good fit for Miami, despite the cost
There is no U.S. port more perfectly suited for shore power than PortMiami. A 2017 EPA assessment of the technology’s feasibility found it may be most effective when used at ports with a high percentage of frequently returning vessels. With 1,234 cruise port calls in 2019, including some ships that return twice per week, PortMiami is the most frequently visited cruise port in the world.
A Miami Herald analysis of EPA data and the agency’s shore power calculator found shore power could reduce carbon emissions at PortMiami by about 35%. Emissions dangerous to human health — sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide — would be cut by 67% and 99%, respectively. As power grids incorporate more energy from renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro, shore power will become even more effective.
Had the technology been installed in 2011, two years after PortMiami’s environmental manager told a trade publication that shore power was being considered for a new terminal, PortMiami could have avoided spewing nearly half a million metric tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Installing shore power hookups requires a relatively modest investment. The cost to install a shore power hookup on a mooring costs about $20 million; the necessary substations or extra power lines can cost several million more. But that’s a small percentage of the revenues cruise lines generate for the county. Since March, PortMiami has waived $16.9 million in berthing fees for cruise companies, and in October, Miami-Dade commissioners voted to waive up to $285 million in fees that cruise companies owed under minimum-rent deals they signed years ago to use the county-owned facility.
Using shore power nearly doubles a ship’s in-port cost. In Brooklyn, for example, the Queen Mary 2 stays for an average of 5.5 hours each port call using 45,000 kilowatt-hours of power, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Using shore power will cost around $5,400 for the stay, compared to burning heavy fuel oil, which will cost about $3,186.
But cruise lines say they aren’t balking.
“We are paying those costs in those circumstances because it’s the right thing to do,” said Carnival Corp.’s Tom Strang. Carnival Corp. owns the Queen Mary 2. “We have a set of sustainability goals, we want to achieve those goals; there are times you have to pay more to achieve those things.”
Not that lines are clamoring for shore hookups, according to PortMiami director Kuryla. Speaking at PortMiami on a recent weekday next to the MSC Meraviglia cruise ship, which has been equipped for shore power since it began being based in Miami in 2019, Kuryla said none of the cruise companies have approached him about shore power. His focus is on getting liquefied natural gas to the port to be able to accommodate LNG-propelled cruise ships by 2022.
“We’re doing new terminals, and we’re not opposed to shore power,” Kuryla said. “On the contrary. That moment there is that requirement or that need by a line to have shore power … we’re very happy to consider it.”
Strang said even Carnival Corp.’s upcoming LNG ships will be shore power-equipped so they can turn off their engines in ports.
‘There needs to be that motivation’
Ports have long expressed fear of any regulation that might scare away the cruise industry, which directly and indirectly provides 60,000 local jobs. But while there may have been a time in the past when Miami had reason to worry about cruise companies choosing other Sunshine State ports if it were to require shore power, over the past few years the port has secured long-term contracts — running 20 to 62 years — with the largest four cruise companies in the world. For the foreseeable future, they aren’t going anywhere.
Until the Miami Herald published a story in November 2019 mentioning shore power, one commission staffer said the issue simply had never come up.
”It just wasn’t on the list of priorities,” the staffer said about cruise terminal deal negotiations. “It was about passenger guarantees, capital investment.”
The straightforward solution to drastically cutting PortMiami emissions didn’t even make its way into Resilient 305 — the county’s 2019 plan for dealing with climate change — or GreenPrint, the county’s 2010 sustainability master plan.
The county appears to have let the industry set the terms for the last decade.
James Murley, the county’s chief resilience officer, said that shore power isn’t mentioned in GreenPrint because “many of the ships that use PortMiami didn’t have the required equipment to use it.”
At that point five other U.S. ports had already switched to shore power, attracting ships that could plug in.
Murley said the county would consider including shore power in the upcoming updated version of GreenPrint.
Newly elected Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she is open to shore power.
“As one commissioner there was only so much that I could do to move some of these issues forward,” she said during an interview at a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the new Terminal V for Virgin Voyages. “It’s definitely on my list of issues to revisit as mayor.”
While the county has been slow to act — and installing the infrastructure would take years — it’s still not too late, said Bryan Comer, head of the marine program at the International Council on Clean Transportation.
Two of the five new cruise terminals — Royal Caribbean Group’s Terminal A and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ Terminal B — are already completed and can be retrofitted with shore power, two are currently under construction — Virgin Voyages’ Terminal V and Carnival Corp.’s Terminal F— and one is yet to come — MSC Cruises’ Terminal AAA.
“There’s responsibility to make investments that you know work,” Comer said.
Not everyone shares that viewpoint.
John Conor, a sales director for Cavotec USA, the company that has installed shore power at ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego, said without public pressure or state requirements, some ports have resisted the investment.
“Everybody understands the environmental impact of this and the results that come out of having the ships plug in,” he said. “It’s well documented in terms of tons of particulates and gases emitted into the air. Sometimes we educate on that.
“But you have to get back down to what is going to motivate somebody to spend money on shore power. Out West the motivation has been the mandates. That’s the big difference between the two. There needs to be that motivation to want to do this.”
In L.A., that motivation had a lot to do with the impact of dangerous ship pollution on people’s health. Idling ships release fumes that contain harmful metal particles linked to higher risk of cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses, said Cassandra Gaston, assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School. L.A. is unique in that its geography and climate make the city more prone to air pollution.
The risks are not as dramatic in Miami. Still, air quality can be surprisingly poor in some areas. There are hot spots near the port with air containing dangerous pollutants that often exceed federal standards, according to Naresh Kumar, associate professor of environmental health at the University of Miami.
“That can certainly worsen asthma and increase cancer risks,” he said.
As cruise ships glide past the tip of Miami Beach, their towering facades temporarily shade South Pointe Park. Once they make it into port, from a perch on the grass near his home just blocks from the park, neighborhood resident Matthew Gultanoff, 35, can spot the cruise ship exhaust; When he zooms in with his camera’s long lens, the extent of the pollution comes clearly into focus.
Sometimes he can smell it.
He’s worried about what the fumes mean for the health of Miami Beach and downtown Miami residents who live a stone’s throw away from the ships. And he’s worried about the lack of political will to invest in a technology that is already proven to reduce emissions at ports around the world.
Gultanoff has repeatedly emailed Miami-Dade commissioners about why they keep approving cruise terminal deals without shore power. He has not received a straight answer, he said.
“It’s frustrating that such a large infrastructure project hasn’t been noticed,” he said. “It’s happened in other ports; there’s no reason why it can’t happen here. The money is there; the money truly is there. It’s just a matter of someone saying, ‘Hey we need to do this. And we can do it.’ ”
McClatchy reporter Ben Wieder contributed to this report.
Royal Caribbean – Royal Caribean – Why PortMiami still allows cruise ships to spew emissions | Fintech Zoom
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