Fares across the Channel and the North Sea will soar if rules on cleaner fuel are tightened as planned, ferry companies are warning. When internationally agreed measures take effect in 2015, some longer routes could also be axed – forcing holidaymakers and hauliers to drive much further.
Robin Wilkins, chairman of the Association of British Travel Organisers to France, said: "We will see fewer ferries and much higher fares."
Most ships burn low-grade fuel oil, which in its untreated form typically produces emissions containing 2 or 3 per cent sulphur dioxide – the compound held responsible for "acid rain".
The limit for ships in the English Channel, the North Sea and the Baltic is 1 per cent, which is currently achieved at modest extra cost. But under "Marpol Annexe VI", part of the convention on marine pollution, this level of sulphur emissions will be outlawed after 2014. The limit will be cut to 0.1 per cent.
The tougher rules were agreed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). A spokesperson said: "IMO's vision for the industry is to eliminate, or reduce to the barest minimum, all adverse environmental impacts from ships." To meet the new limit, ships are likely to switch to diesel or low-emission fuels such as liquefied natural gas.
DFDS Seaways, which sails from Dover to Calais and Dunkirk and across the North Sea, predicts fuel costs will rise by 80 per cent. Passenger director, John Crummie, said: "The proposed changes will directly impact the whole supply chain and ultimately increase costs to the consumer for everything from holidays to the price of food."
Routes like Hull to Rotterdam and Newcastle to Amsterdam are likely to be worst affected. Chris Laming of P&O said: "[It] will drive thousands of HGVs to take the long way round with the consequence of causing greater CO2 emissions. Where's the sense in that?"
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