The New Zealand government is currently inching towards cutting pollution levels. Its Ministry of Transport will shortly begin public consultation on whether to ratify Annex VI of an international maritime convention (MARPOL) which makes use of lower sulphur level fuel mandatory from 2020.
Shipping line Maersk converted to using the cleaner burning fuel in New Zealand waters in 2011, but switched back after its fuel bill soared by $1 million during the one year trial, although the switch back forced the company to turn down a nomination for a Clean Air Society achievement award.
Maersk makes about 1,000 New Zealand port visits a year. Its Oceania operations manager, Stuart Jennings, says the more expensive fuel cuts sulphur levels in exhaust gases by more than 80 percent, but the company regrettably suspended the pilot due to lack of support from other local industry stakeholders.
"We believe that a strong enforcement regime is crucial to ensure a level playing field for carriers as well as shippers, and to make sure that health and environmental benefits are continuously maximised."
Jennings said that from 2020 all vessels in its global fleet would comply with the Annex VI requirement to reduce maximum sulphur levels from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent, regardless of whether New Zealand had ratified the clause.
Atmospheric scientist Jennifer Barclay nominated Maersk for the clean air award and said the company's switch to cleaner burning diesel reduced the amount of sulphur released into Auckland skies by 72 tonnes a year.
Ministry of Transport international connections manager Tom Forster said the Resource Management Act allowed for discharges into air for normal ship operations, and New Zealand had not previously signed up to Annex VI "because our weather conditions and comparatively small ship numbers meant maritime air pollution was not seen as a significant issue."
According to stuff.co.nz, Forster said domestic legislation would need to be changed if ratification was agreed on once consultation was completed.