Cruise ships lowering speeds, spending less time in Victoria to reduce emissions


Cruise ships arriving at Ogden Point are arriving later and spending less time at the port to help meet a global emissions goal.

New regulations that came into effect in 2023 have cruise ships searching for ways to reduce their environmental footprint. One way is by reducing the speed that the vessels operate out on the water.

“Sometimes, when we go a little slower, our engines are able to operate in a more efficient manner,” said Lindsay Gaunt, cruise development director at the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority (GVHA).

The International Marine Organization (IMO) has nearly 200 members, including Canada, and is tasked with seeking ways to implement security and safety measures for international shipping and preventing pollution from ships.

In 2018, the IMO developed a strategy to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 40 per cent by 2030, and reach net-zero by 2050. This year, that strategy took effect and ships began to explore methods.

RELATED: First cruise ship of 2023 docks at Victoria’s Ogden Point: ‘This will be a busy place’

At the GVHA, Gaunt says ships began reducing speeds last year, and that the harbour authority is also lending a helping hand.

“The implementation of shore power,” said Gaunt. “What that would mean is that cruise vessels, not just cruise [ships], but any vessel that comes into the terminal will be able to turn off their engines and plug into the local electricity.”

Gaunt estimates that ships are arriving about an hour later than usual, but the overall number of vessels docking hasn’t changed. Yet, the delayed time that passengers are arriving in Victoria is having an effect on local businesses.

“When the ships are coming in at seven or eight o’clock at night, and then you have the disembarking of passengers, they’re not getting into the downtown core until 8:30, nine o’clock,” said Jeff Bray, CEO of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

“The reality is that not many businesses are open so that’s really a missed opportunity,” he said.

A report published last month found that more than 700,000 cruise ship passengers arrived in Victoria in 2022. Bray adds that the move is positive for environmental purposes but hopes that ships will eventually change their itineraries to accommodate businesses.

Barry Penner with the Cruise Line International Association says that’s something they’ll keep in mind.

“A cruise line will make operational decisions for themselves about how best to reach various goals,” said Penner. “One of them is reducing emissions and the other is maintaining a high-quality experience for their passengers for when they’re in different ports. Just depending on what they’re objective is for that particular itinerary that’s being sold.”

With ships reducing speeds, it’s creating a positive effect for southern resident killer whales.

“Cruises ships slowing down locally to Victoria is great for local species like whales,” said Anna Barford, Canada Shipping Campaigner at environmental group Stand.Earth.

The move is being welcomed by the environmental advocate, but she wants to see it expanded to larger container ships.

“If cruise ships can demonstrate that slowing down is a good move to save fuel, to help the whales out, which is important for this region both ecologically and for tourism revenue, then we can show that other types of ships can slow down,” said Barford.

Reducing speeds and staying less time at ports is just one of many methods that the cruise industry is looking into as ways of reducing its footprint. Other options, such as using cleaner fuel sources, are also being explored.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!