New York City Passes Legislation on Cruise Ship Power Requirement

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The New York City Council has approved landmark legislation aimed at reducing emissions from cruise ships docked at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal and the Manhattan Cruise Terminal.

The new law will require ships to utilize shoreside power connections where available, but what about cruise ships not yet updated to access a local power grid?

Lawmakers Aim to Cut Emissions From Docked Ships in NYC

In a unanimous vote on March 7, 2024, members of the New York City Council voted to pass legislation titled “Introduction 4-A, Our Air Our Water Act,” designed to significantly cut harmful emissions from cruise ships docked with engines running at the Brooklyn and Manhattan cruise terminals.

Without a shoreside power source, cruise ships must keep engines running to operate hotel services while docked, causing harmful emissions from fossil fuels. More ships are being outfitted with shoreside power technology, but there is still a long way to go before all cruise vessels have the capability. The Cruise Lines International Association has a stated goal of a net-zero carbon industry by 2050. 

The text of the legislation reads:This bill would alter the terms of the contract between the city and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) by requiring EDC to compel cruise terminal operators to require cruise ships with shore power capability to connect to shore power systems when docked, whenever shore power is available, and it is safe and practicable to do so.

The key phrase is “require cruise ships with shore power capability,” because the bill’s text does not indicate any mandate for ships that are not equipped for shoreside connections. Moreover, the Manhattan Cruise Terminal has not been updated with any shore power capabilities, so cruise ships docking there cannot hook into the local grid even if they have the technology to do so. 

The Manhattan Terminal is the bigger of the two, and serves Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Seabourn Cruise Line, Viking Ocean Cruises, and Oceania Cruises, among others.

Cruise Ship Docked in New York City
Cruise Ship Docked in New York City (Photo Credit: lucasImages / Shutterstock)

The Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, which serves Cunard and Princess Cruises, was outfitted with a shoreside power source for cruise ships in 2017, but the connections are not always used because the sockets the terminal installed are not compatible with all cruise ships. 

These impediments to a full utilization of shoreside power would have to be removed before any meaningful level of emissions reduction can be achieved. Still, the New York City Council appears to see the passage of the legislation as a step forward. 

Today, the Council is passing critical legislation to protect and support residents who live in communities surrounding our city’s terminals,New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said

By requiring cruise ships to connect to shore power, this law will limit harmful emissions and mitigate pollution, noise, and other impacts on local neighborhoods,Adams added

The bill was introduced by Council members Alexa Avilés, who represents Brooklyn, and Erik Bottcher, representing Manhattan. 

New Law Also Targets Local Traffic From Cruise Guests

In addition to addressing engine emissions at the docks of two cruise terminals, the legislation has a traffic component, requiring that the EDC create and update traffic mitigation plans in the neighborhoods around each terminal.

The plans will provide strategies to cut pollution, noise, and “other disruptions” caused by cruise passenger transits to and from the cruise terminals.

Carnival Venezia in New York
Carnival Venezia in New York (Photo Credit: Mariusz Lopusiewicz)

Read Also: BEST Hotels Near Manhattan Cruise Terminal, New York

The bill, which sat for several months in the Council’s Committee on Economic Development, appeared to gain steam in February 2023. It was approved by the committee the same day that the full Council passed it.

This is a community-led victory that’s been years in the making, a step toward righting historical wrongs, and I’m grateful to play a part in its passage,said Council member and bill sponsor Alexa Aviles

With our air and water at stake, I remain committed to putting community health needs over the corporate greed of the cruise ship industry and last mile polluters. This fight is far from over,said Aviles.

The legislation does not make clear the Council’s policy regarding ships that are not equipped with shoreside power connections, nor does it indicate an effective date for implementation of the mandate.

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