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PortMiami wins $2M EPA grant, one step closer to reducing air pollution from cruise ships

·3 min read

PortMiami is one step closer to reducing its pollution from cruise ships.

This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved Miami-Dade County’s request for $2 million to build a shore power hookup at PortMiami that will allow cruise ships to plug into the local electrical grid when they are docked instead of idling their engines. The hookup will be up and running at Carnival Cruise Line’s Terminal F by October 2023, the grant application said.

“We are committed not just to bringing back cruising in the months ahead — but to building back a more resilient cruise industry and continuing to make the Port a leader in sustainability,” said Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava in a statement.

PortMiami’s shore-power hookup for cruise ships will be the first in the southeastern U.S. In its grant application, the county said it will contribute $8.7 million to fund the hookup, for a total price of $10,750,000.01.

The county requested the funds after the Feb. 3 publication of a Miami Herald story about the avoidable pollution from docked cruise ships. The Herald found the county had not installed shore power more than 10 years after promising to invest in the technology. In recent years the county has spent $700 million to build new cruise terminals, but none of them have included shore power.

President of Carnival Cruise Line Christine Duffy, left, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava attend a groundbreaking ceremony for Carnival Cruise Line’s Terminal F at PortMiami in Miami, Florida, on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.
President of Carnival Cruise Line Christine Duffy, left, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava attend a groundbreaking ceremony for Carnival Cruise Line’s Terminal F at PortMiami in Miami, Florida, on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021.

A Miami Herald analysis of PortMiami dock reports shows at least 15 shore power-capable cruise ships have visited PortMiami hundreds of times in the last decade, spewing avoidable emissions. EPA data and the agency’s shore power calculator show shore power could reduce carbon emissions at PortMiami by about 35 percent. Emissions dangerous to human health — sulfur oxide and nitrogen oxide — could be cut by 67 percent and 99 percent, respectively.

The slash in air emissions will also help with the county’s goal to cut the amount of planet heating gasses released from PortMiami by 25% by 2030 as part of Miami-Dade’s Climate Action Strategy.

Not only does shore power reduce air emissions, it also reduces water pollution discharged from cruise ships’ emissions cleaning systems called scrubbers while they are docked.

Cruise ships’ fix for dirty smoke led to water pollution in South Florida ports, study finds

Seven U.S. cruise ports already provide shore power, and most European ports are required to have it by 2025.

On Feb. 17, Levine Cava announced the formation of a county task force to bring shore power to PortMiami with representatives from six cruise companies and Florida Power & Light. The mayor’s office said the group has met several times and includes Carnival Cruise Line Director of Electrical Systems George Whitfield, Disney Cruise Line Director of Technical Operations Duncan Gould, Norwegian Cruise Line Vice President of Electrical Services Martin Hegarty, Royal Caribbean Group Director of Electrical Systems Guttorm Hauge, Virgin Voyages Vice President of Technical Operations Henry Veringa, and Steven Frey for MSC Cruises.

Five of Carnival’s 22 cruise ships in operation are equipped with shore power capability: Carnival Freedom, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Panorama and Carnival Vista.

For some nearby residents, the county is not moving fast enough. Palm Island resident Tom Sullivan, founder of Lumber Liquidators, sued MSC Cruises and Miami-Dade County in March, asking a judge to stop construction of the upcoming MSC Cruises terminal because it does not have shore power despite the county’s pledges to invest in the technology in its 2035 Master Plan. The lawsuit is still pending.