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Cruise Ships - Use of Bunker Fuel

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Friday, 3 November 2017

Tags: Fossil Fuels, Cruise Ships


Cruise ships berthing in Hobart increased from 32 to 48 last season and are expected to exceed 60 this year. The majority will use heavy fuel oil known as bunker fuel. Bunker fuel is the sludge that remains at the bottom of a barrel of crude oil. It contains concentrated sulphur and heavy metals, outputting sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, toluene, benzene and formaldehyde when burnt. These pollutants are being spewed out in levels 35 times higher than what is allowed in Europe, the United States, and Sydney Harbour, into the air around the Tasmanian School of Arts, the waterfront, Salamanca Place and the Hobart CBD.

The Australian Senate has passed a motion tabled by the Greens requiring the federal government to set -

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Ms O'CONNOR - This is actually about the health of the people of Hobart and you people are laughing. It is extraordinary.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. Ms O'Connor, the question, please.

Ms O'CONNOR - The Australian Senate passed a motion requiring the federal Government to set an upper limit of 0.1 per cent fuel oil sulphur content for cruise ships berthed in Hobart. Speaking on behalf of the federal government, Senator McGrath indicated the Government would consider a request from the Tasmanian Government to implement a lower fuel sulphur content level for cruise ships in Hobart. The health and safety of the people of Hobart now rests on your shoulders. Will you write to the federal government and will you act?



Mr Speaker, I have heard some things in my time in this House throughout question time and I presume the member would like an answer to her question. I thank her for asking this important question because cruise ships are an important part of our visitor economy, with direct onshore expenditure estimated at around $25 million. That goes out into our regions, it does not just stay in Hobart. This question is loaded to make it seem that the people of Hobart are sucking in dangerous air.

Ms O'Connor - They are, 35 times more than what is allowed in Sydney Harbour.

Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor.

Ms ARCHER - The language used at times by the member for Denison in this House quite frankly is appalling scaremongering. I note that this comes off the back of a motion from the Hobart City Council, which I am sure was put up by the Greens because in this House they seem to be a mouthpiece for either the council Greens or those in federal parliament.

I welcome this question because it gives me an opportunity to explain exactly what the regulations and the international regulations are doing. As the member has pointed out, it was the Hobart City Council that supported a motion to write to the federal government to legislate for an upper limit of 0.1 per cent for fuel oil sulphur content for bunker fuel while cruise ships are berthed in the Port of Hobart.

The Greens proposed a similar limit in February 2017 based on the 0.1 per cent limit set in Sydney Harbour by the New South Wales government. However, from 1 January 2020 - not that long to wait - all ships and vessels operating anywhere in the world will be required to use fuel which contains a maximum of 0.5 per cent sulphur after the International Maritime Organisation, IMO -

Ms O'Connor interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. Ms O'Connor, if the question was worth asking, then the answer must be worth listening to, so please do not interject.

Ms O'Connor - Point of order. The question was whether the minister will be writing to her federal counterpart to give effect to the Senate's vote.

Mr SPEAKER - That is not a point of order. I ask the minister to continue.

Ms ARCHER - The reason I am explaining the true situation around this is because the member asked a very lengthy question and I should be entitled to respond to all the allegations that were made, not just a yes or no. I am not going to come in here to answer a question like that without having the opportunity to explain the Government's position.

Ms O'Connor - They weren't allegations, they were facts. I told you what is in bunker fuel and how far behind we are the rest of the world.

Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor.

Ms ARCHER - As I was saying,

Ms O'Connor - Your candidate in Denison, Sue Hickey, supports this.

Mr SPEAKER - Order.

Ms ARCHER - Thank you, Mr Speaker. The IMA adopted amendments to Annex 6 of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships . Ships may use an IMA-approved equivalent method to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions, such as an exhaust gas cleaning system, provided the resulting emissions are equivalent to that under low sulphur fuel. Sulphur dioxide motoring equipment was recently installed at the Hobart port and the independent Environment Protection Authority is planning to install similar equipment to monitor oxides of nitrogen. Ambient sulphur dioxide levels measured at the Hobart port monitoring station have been well below the hourly and daily national standards.

Dr Woodruff - Are you going to get on with it? There are no ships here.

Ms ARCHER - Did I hear the member for Franklin say there are no cruise ships here? There are 130 cruise ship visits across Tasmanian ports expected, injecting millions of dollars into the Tasmanian economy, and the member says there are ships in Hobart.

Dr Woodruff - There were no cruise ships in port when that monitoring was done, and you know it.

Mr SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Ms ARCHER - The reason the answer has been going for five minutes is because of the constant interjections from the members on the crossbench.

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. The House will come to order. The minister has the call. We will get through this question when the House is in order and the minister can resume her answer.

Ms ARCHER - Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is a technical answer to this issue so I have taken my time through it because the Hobart City Council and the Greens' proposal asks Tasmania to jump the gun on international regulations that will come in effect in just over two years time. It is a council decision -

Members interjecting.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. Ms O'Connor, it is not appropriate to continually interject on the minister while she is trying to answer the question. Whether you like the answer or not, I am afraid you are going to have to sit there and listen to it. If you cannot do that, I will have to ask you to leave the Chamber.

Ms ARCHER - Thank you, Mr Speaker, and I will wind up. Last year was a record cruise ship season for Hobart. We are not going to be jumping the gun on this. We are well below the hourly and daily national standards. There is no danger to the people of Hobart whatsoever and, frankly, with 130 cruise ship visits across Tasmania, injecting millions of dollars into our southern region and across Tasmania, it defies logic that the Greens would defy Tasmanians an opportunity to benefit in terms of jobs and our local economy and especially our regions.