Published on October 10, 2018 – 06:00 by Transport Environment
It would cost passengers just the price of a glass of wine a day if cruise ships would stop burning highly polluting heavy fuel oil (HFO) in the fragile Arctic environment. That’s according to a new report from green transport group Transport & Environment which analysed the impact on the cruise ship MS Rotterdam had it switched to marine gas oil (MGO)  during three summer trips to the Arctic in 2018.
Banning the use of HFO in the Arctic last summer would have increased ticket prices on the MS Rotterdam by on average 6%, based on 2018 fuel prices and assuming the additional fuel costs incurred were passed on to passengers. This equates to an additional €7 a day on ticket prices – or no more than the price of a glass of wine onboard the MS Rotterdam, which is owned by Holland America Line.
Lucy Gilliam, shipping officer at T&E, said: “Arctic cruise tourism is booming, increasing the risks of oil spills and creating more pollution. The costs per passenger of a switch to cleaner fuel are tiny. It’s more than worth it to reduce the risks to the unique environment that passengers are paying to see.”
T&E said the analysis shows the Arctic HFO ban can be implemented immediately with an insignificant impact on the cruise industry. Such trivial increases in ticket prices for this luxury business should be acceptable for cruise passengers who, in growing numbers – up by 20% in the Norwegian port of Svalbard in 2017 – are paying to see the pristine Arctic environment.
Lucy Gilliam concluded: “Cruise companies claim that an HFO ban would be a death sentence to their industry yet the figures show that the costs passed on to passengers are trivial. Cruises to the Arctic are, by any measure, a luxury yet tickets are VAT exempt.”
Last April the IMO agreed to move forward on developing a ban on HFO from Arctic waters on the basis of an impact assessment. Currently, the IMO is inviting submissions on how to assess the impact of the HFO ban on communities and operators in the Arctic. It will be discussed during the next marine environment protection committee meeting (MEPC 73) in London in October.
 HFO is made from the dregs of the oil refining process and is the dirtiest of all fuel types. In the event of a spill, it is virtually impossible to clean up. It also produces higher levels of air and climate pollutants than other marine fuels.