A record 123 cruise ships are set to visit Wellington this year, but New Zealand isn’t yet contributing to reducing global ship emissions.
New Zealand and Mexico are the only two countries in the OECD not signed to an international agreement requiring ships to run on cleaner fuel.
Associate Minister for Transport Julie Anne Genter said New Zealand was a party to MARPOL, (The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) however previous governments had chosen not to sign up to Annex VI which regulated shipping emissions affecting human health and the climate.
Officials had investigated “the pros and cons” of signing up to Annex VI and the Ministry of Transport had recently finished consultation.
“I expect to take a recommendation to Cabinet on this matter before the end of this year.”
Last year, emissions from a single cruise ship visit in Wellington were the equivalent to more than 200,000 extra cars per day, according to Emission Impossible director Dr Gerda Kuschel.
Her calculation found that was nearly more emissions than all of Wellington’s cars in one day.
The Annex VI will be in place for those nations signed to the agreement, currently 91, from January 1, 2020.
It would mean all cruise ships visiting New Zealand ports would need to meet much tighter requirements, she said.
“That might mean that although more ships come here, the local impact might be much reduced due to lower sulphur fuels.”
WellingtonNZ General Manager David Perks said it was “a very interesting time” for how to balance economic growth with climate change.
“It’s crucial that the tourism industry becomes leaders in sustainability as people become increasingly conscious of the emissions their travel produces,” he said.
“They want to know change is being made in the destinations they visit to make it worthwhile.”
MOT International Connections manager Tom Forster said cabinet would be receiving advice on potential Annex VI accession.
“A decision to accede would be followed by a treaty examination, including a select committee process.
“This will provide interested parties with a further opportunity to express their views.”
The 123-ship season beats 110 in 2019 and 82 in 2018. In 2007-2008 just 38 cruise ships berthed in Wellington.
Shipping has been highlighted by the Ministry for the Environment as an emerging issue, but the country has no regulation on air quality from ships.
The Marlborough District Council has previously said there would be strong benefits for the region – in particular Picton and the Marlborough Sounds – if New Zealand signed the global agreement.
StraitNZ CEO Louise Struthers said Bluebridge supported the signing of the treaty, and would be able to comply with any new requirements within its existing fleet.
Interislander general manager Walter Rushbrook said KiwiRail made a submission in favour of adopting Annex VI.
Kiwirail is in the process of replacing its ferry fleet with two new larger ferries, which will be capable of complying with international standards, including the Annex VI.
“Having long-term certainty of fuel and emissions regulations is necessary as we embark on a major fleet investment programme.”