Fuel rules won’t impact state ferries

The ferry Malaspina sails by downtown Sitka during 2010 Alaska Day festivities. Ed Schoenfeld Photo.

New federal air-pollution restrictions will affect cruise and some other vessels sailing Alaska waters.

But they will not impact state ferries.

“It is a big issue for the state of Alaska, it is not necessarily a big issue for the Alaska Marine Highway System. All of our ships operating within 200 miles of the coastline already burn low-sulfur fuel,” says Captain Mike Neussl, the state’s deputy commissioner of marine transportation.

State ferries made the switch a number of years ago, before Neussl came on board.

The new air-emission limits come from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. They apply to what are called Emission Control Areas, or ECAs, within 200 miles of the coastline.

Officials say they’re part of an international effort to lower pollution that contributes to human illnesses and deaths.

Neussl says the required fuel is already available at ferry ports.

“The suppliers there already carry ultra-low sulfur diesel because that’s what they have and that’s what we use. So it wasn’t a big switch, and the switch that the marine highways made wasn’t in direct response to this upcoming implementation of the ECA,” he says.

The new rules go into effect Wednesday, August 1st