Transportation Minister Rob Fleming hopes the federal government will in th “not-so-distant future” plug into a project that would reduce emissions from cruise ships docking in Victoria.
While the 2023 cruise ship season set new passenger records in Vancouver and Victoria, Victoria remains what Fleming calls the “outlier” when it comes to powering docked ships with what insiders call shore-power. The technology allows ships to turn off their diesel-powered auxiliary engines and plug into the provincial grid, reducing emissions of harmful particulates and greenhouse gas emissions.
In April, Fleming announced $9 million toward infrastructure at the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority’s Odgen Point terminal, which would allow cruise ships to access clean hydroelectricity at two berths. But Fleming also hopes Ottawa chips in.
“We’ve been in regular communication with the federal government that used to have a green port program, and we are hoping for a positive investment,” he said.
Fleming added everybody wants this to happen.
“Victoria certainly wants to move toward sustainable green energy,” he said. “The cruise ship industry has signed international accords that include Canada, the United States to make the entire cruise ship corridor between California and Alaska that transits through Canada and includes Canadian ports, the greenest in the world,” Fleming said. “The Government of Canada is a signatory to that agreement. We are just looking forward to their investment.”
Cruise ships are an important contributor to the provincial economy, but continue to receive criticism for issues such as sewage and waste, air pollutants and greenhouse emissions created before, during and after sailings.
A 2021 University of Exeter study found a large cruise ship can have a carbon footprint greater than 12,000 cars and Antarctic cruise passengers can produce as much CO2 on an average seven-day voyage as the average European in an entire year.
The cruise ship industry has vowed to improve its record, but critics argue progress has been slow, lamenting the absence of tougher national and international laws and regulations.
Fleming deferred questions about what happens on board of ships while at sea to the federal government.
“But we are supportive of them (Ottawa), collaborating with the cruise ship industry to adopt practices that protect the ocean’s health and environment,” he said.
‘The area of my jurisdiction and the one I’m helping fund and construct is the around shore power,” he said. Shore power has been in place in Vancouver for the better part of a decade and Victoria would like to be next, he said.
The final cruise ship of the 2023 season left Canada Place cruise terminal in Vancouver on Tuesday (Oct. 24, 2023). The port estimated 1.25 million passengers and 332 ships visited the city this season – a new record for both.
In Victoria, three fewer ships anchored than in 2022, but the number of visitors rose by 26 per cent to 970,000.
2023 was the first full season without any COVID-19 restrictions after the gradual easing of federal travel restrictions in 2022.
Cruise ship visits returned to Vancouver in April 2022 after a two-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
—with files from Sam Duerksen and Lauren Collins.