© Guardian photo
Three cruise ships stopped by Charlottetown on Oct. 9: The Norwegian Dawn, The Emerald Princess and The Brilliance of the Seas. The number of cruise ship visits to P.E.I. in August 2013 were double what they were in the same month last year.
Cruise ship visits to Charlottetown will take a jump next year but look out for 2015 when environmental laws ramp up in North America, a meeting was told Tuesday.
The Charlottetown Downtown Residents Association invited the Charlottetown Harbour Authority Inc. to make a presentation about the seaport's activity.
"Cruising is one of the strongest growing tourism industries in the world," said Corryn Morrissey, marketing and communications manager for the authority.
She said P.E.I. is part of a regional niche market but there is a slight change in that view within the industry. The result is larger ships stopping in to Charlottetown.
This year there were 57 cruise visits scheduled, 15 more than last year and that includes nine ships that had never been here before. Weather problems resulted in some cancellations so there were a total of some 70,000 visitors from 51 ships in port over the season, 70 percent of them in the fall.
Morrissey said that ports in the region are working together with cruise lines to encourage more visits during the summer. They hope Disney Lines may come here but already Holland America has confirmed some mid-summer sailings next season, doubling their Charlottetown visits.
"Next year we are looking to see up to just over 70," said Morrissey of the total cruise stops in Charlottetown.
They hope for about the same number in 2014 but then the big threat to the industry hits in 2015.
"The major threat for us is ECA, the Emissions Control Area," said Morrissey.
It demands that within 200 nautical miles of the coast, ships must burn low-sulphur fuel or cut sulphur emissions drastically by 2015.
"This is not in place globally and the fuel is not that easy to get and it's very expensive," said Morrissey.
She said that it does not take much for a cruise line to abandon a port or a route, perhaps to destinations where the emission rules do not apply.
A lot of research and lobbying is being thrown at the issue, said Morrissey.
Some efforts are being made at exhaust scrubbing, some organizations are taking the legislation to court, others are trying to negotiate a middle ground, such as using different fuels depending on the distance from shore, or modifying existing bunker-fuel engines to cope with the lighter, low-sulphur fuels.
Another concern is support on P.E.I. for cruise passengers. There needs to be attractions open in the fall for them to attend, enough buses to get them around in good time, and space for the ships to quickly discharge and then reassemble passengers.
Les Parsons, chief executive officer of the authority said that studies and discussions with the industry revealed that cruise lines don't care what the port looks like, only that it is efficient at moving passengers quickly in and out.
"They told us, 'don't spend millions of dollars making it look pretty. We don't want them sitting around your building all day,' " said Parsons. "Really."
Charlottetown has a high approval rating in the industry, said Morrissey.
Members of the public at the presentation asked about water supply.
"The average ship this year took on 324 cubic meters (of water)," said Parsons. "We do sell it to them."