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Britannia at Flam

I recently posted about P&O Iona’s first season itinerary in 2020, and that it was remarkable that it would be entirely spent in the Norwegian fjords. It was subsequently suggested that new anti-pollution regulations (from 2019) would be difficult for the existing P&O ships to comply with – hence the deployment of Iona, which will use LNG fuel, as from 2020.

I’ve done some further digging and the picture doesn’t seem quite as clear cut as that. The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NWA) is indeed in the process of developing new regulations on atmospheric pollution and water discharge from ships, and they will certainly cover cruise ships. However, the new regulations don’t cover *all* the fjords, just three of the ‘world heritage’ fjords. A small number of the most remote and dramatic fjords have been designated World Heritage sites, and part of the requirements applying to such sites is that they shall enjoy special protection – indeed, it’s the responsibility of the national authority to ensure that this protection is in place. The relevant World Heritage sites are the following three fjords:- Nærøyfjord, Aurlandsfjord, and Geirangerfjord. The first two of these are remote arms of Sognefjord. One of these, Aurlandsfjord, terminates at Flam which is of course a port frequently visited by P&O ships. Geiranger, the third world heritage fjord, has been visited in the past, but I don’t think it is these days (at least, not by P&O; although I think that Fred. Olsen ships do).

As far as I can make out, the new regulations, once/if agreed, will restrict the amount of sulphur and nitrous oxide pollution, would impose some restrictions on the use of ‘open loop’ scrubbing systems, and would also tighten up the regulations regarding the discharge of sewage from ships in these locations.

At the moment I’m really unclear what impact these regulations will have on the ability of existing ships to cruise into these areas. Certainly all the cruise lines I’ve looked at – e.g. P&O and Fred. Olsen – have full programmes of cruises into the fjords throughout the summer of 2019. As yet we don’t have itineraries for P&O ships other than Iona for 2020, nor for ships of other lines, but these will be available in early September. That will tell us if the lines are expecting to be able to use existing ships on the usual itineraries in 2020 or not.

As regards possible further new regulations, there is a sting in the tail. Recently the Norwegian parliament passed something called an “anmodningsvedtak”. This is a resolution which calls upon the government to bring proposals (on whatever the issue is) back to the parliament. In this case the parliament has called for zero emissions to be implemented in the fjords, by 2026 at the latest. This parliamentary action is very recent, so there’s been no response yet from the government. But if relevant proposals are brought forward, that would be a major change. It’s being suggested that the only technology that could meet the requirement would be electric, i.e. battery-powered, ships; although someone I discussed this with mused that nuclear-powered vessels would also do! Somehow, though, I don’t see the Norwegians allowing nuclear-powered ships into their fjords!

I’ll keep watching this issue and report developments as they occur.

6 Responses to “New pollution controls in the Norwegian Fjords”

  1. Malcolm says:

    Interesting posting Tom. Having seen a number of very sooty or blue haze clouds being emitted from cruise ships, its not surprising to hear what the Norwegian authorities are proposing. Incidentally, Geiranger, has often featured in P&O itineraries whenever its more than 7 nights. Arcadia, J903 & J907 plus Aurora R912 all include Geiranger next year.
    I have a photo of Aurora taken in 2006 in Geirangerfjord showing that blue haze. I can’t see how I could attach it to this comment. Keep up the excellent blogs Tom, much appreciated. Regards Malc

    • Tom Burke says:

      Thanks for the comment, Malcolm.

      Do you want to send me that image in an email?

      • Malcolm says:

        Yes Tom, I would be willing to send the Geiranger/Aurora shot to you. Which address should I use?
        Regards, Malcolm

  2. Rob says:

    Can confirm that P&O do still send ships to Geirangerfjord. I was there on Arcadia just recently. I would imagine the Norwegian government will have to reach some compromise on the fjords, because the loss of business from the cruise ships would surely be bad for the economy.

    • Tom Burke says:

      Thanks for the comment, Rob.

      As regards the economic issue, I get the feeling from what I’ve read that that this is indeed an issue for the Norwegian government, but that there is significant pressure to ‘do something’. Also, I wonder how much income there actually is…. the cruising season in the fjords is only 5 months long at best, and I think that calls before May and after September are very thin. I wonder to what extent the businesses are non-local and rely on labour that has been imported for the season? But these are just assumptions – I don’t know the answers.

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