Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Cruise Shipping in NSW

Shipping is a complex area governed by international and national conventions and legislation, such as the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the Protection of the Environment Operations Act and the Marine Pollution Act. A number of government agencies are responsible for ensuring that shipping operations comply with legal requirements.

The EPA has some responsibilities for regulating air, noise and water pollution from ships in NSW harbours that require pilotage. This includes cruise ships entering Sydney Harbour, although other government agencies also have a regulatory role.

Fuel and related Air Pollution

The use of low sulfur fuel used by cruise ships is regulated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA). Cruise ships must use either low sulfur fuel (fuel with a sulfur content of less than 0.1 per cent) or approved air pollution control equipment that reduces emissions to an equivalent level when at berth.

AMSA is also the regulatory authority for air pollution and odour relating to fuel use, and the operation of air pollution control equipment on cruise ships (known as exhaust gas cleaning systems or scrubbers). If you are concerned about the fuel used by cruise ships in Sydney Harbour or the operation of a ship’s air pollution control equipment, phone AMSA on (02) 6279 5000 or email

Noise Pollution

The EPA regulates noise generated from cruise ships according to the effect of this noise on the environment. Cruise ships and passenger terminals in Sydney Harbour are not required to hold environment protection licences.

The Port Authority of NSW is responsible for responding to issues relating to noise at the White Bay Cruise terminal (see below).

Other Pollution

The EPA is the regulatory authority for other pollution from cruise ships, including some water pollution regulation. The EPA will also work RMS and the Port Authority in response to any incidents or community concerns relating to oil or chemical spills into waters which these organisations regulate under the Marine Pollution Act.

White Bay Cruise Terminal

Noise pollution generated by cruise ships docked at White Bay is regulated by the Department of Planning and Environment, according to the conditions of the project approval. Complaints regarding noise from the White Bay Cruise Terminal can be directed to the Rail, Ports and Water, Infrastructure Team at the Department of Planning and Environment - phone: (02) 9228 6333 (business hours) or by email

In the first instance, complaints about cruise ships and terminal operation (including noise, air quality and odours) should be lodged with the Port Authority of NSW through its 24 hour complaints and enquiries phone number (02) 9296 4962 or by email to Noise complaints that are reported as still occurring will be investigated by the Port Authority at the time of the complaint.

The Port Authority of NSW, which owns and operates White Bay Cruise Terminal, is responsible for ensuring the facility complies with the conditions of the Project Approval. This includes specific noise criteria for terminal operations. DPE is working with the Port Authority to address noise impacts from the terminal through the project approval and is finalising a noise impact mitigation strategy. More information is available on their website. To help assess noise impacts from cruise ship operations, the Port Authority has undertaken noise monitoring as required by the project approval for the White Bay Cruise Terminal, see their website. The Port Authority has undertaken a technical study into the feasibility of providing shore-to-ship power at the White Bay Cruise Terminal. More information on the study is available at the Port Authority of NSW website.

Health Impacts

NSW Health works with other government agencies to provide advice to the community and government in relation to potential health impacts associated with cruise ships. More information on air pollution and health can be found on the NSW Health website and information on health issues associated with the White Bay Cruise Terminal can be found on the Sydney Local Health District website. Further information about the health impacts of air emissions from cruise ships can be can be obtained from the Health District's Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055.

You can report concerns and pollution incidents 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to the Environment Line on 131 555 or

Page last updated: 12 July 2017