Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Air - NSW overview

Cruise ship fuel compliance in Sydney Harbour

The Commonwealth Government is responsible for regulating fuel used by cruise ships in Sydney Harbour. Specifications for fuel used by cruise ships in Sydney Harbour are no longer regulated under NSW legislation.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) has directed cruise ships to use, when at berth in Sydney Harbour

  • low sulfur fuel with a sulfur content of less than 0.1% or
  • approved air pollution control equipment that reduces emissions to an equivalent level to using low sulfur fuel

Find out more about the direction requiring cruise ships accommodating with more than 100 passengers and at berth in Sydney Harbour to use low sulfur fuel (direction 2016/21).

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

Previous regulatory and voluntary requirements for cruise ships in NSW

Following concerns raised by residents living near the White Bay Cruise Terminal, the NSW Government introduced regulatory requirements for the use of low sulfur fuel by cruise ships in Sydney Harbour in October 2015.

In January 2016, the Commonwealth Government amended the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 which made the NSW Government’s low sulfur requirements inoperative. The cruise shipping industry subsequently voluntarily agreed to continue to use low-sulfur fuel in cruise ships at berth.

EPA officers conducted 163 cruise ship inspections and took 83 fuel samples between October 2015 and November 2016, and found very good compliance with the NSW requirements. 

The Commonwealth Minister for Infrastructure, Darren Chester announced on 1 December 2016 that AMSA would introduce new requirements for cruise ships to use low-sulfur fuel whilst at berth in Sydney Harbour. 

Shipping emissions workshop October 2015

On 26 October 2015, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) coordinated a half-day workshop to report back to stakeholders on the findings of recent shipping emissions reports and the implementation of the cruise ship low sulfur fuel use amendment regulation. It was attended by approximately 80 stakeholders from industry, the community, government, ports and local councils.

A follow-up survey was distributed to all workshop attendees, and other interested stakeholders. This survey is now closed.

Speakers at the workshop are listed below, and their presentations are available in the table below.

October 2015 workshop presentations

Emissions from ships operating in the Sydney Greater Metropolitan Area (PDF 658KB) Jonathan Abrahams, Head of Maritime Advisory (Australia) DNV.GL
The mortality effect of ship related PM2.5 in Sydney (PDF 1.2MB) Dr Geoff Morgan, Associate Professor - Environmental Health, University Centre for Rural Health, University of Sydney
NSW Cruise Shipping Regulation - Update (PDF 720KB) Mr David Fowler, Director Reform and Compliance, EPA

Shipping industry information forum November 2014

On 14 November 2014, the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) led an information forum with Australian and international representatives of the shipping industry to help progress dialogue on reducing shipping air emissions.

Representatives from the shipping industry, shipping associations, fuel suppliers, ports and government agencies attended the forum. Industry, expert and government speakers who presented to the forum are listed below with their presentations available at the links.

November 2014 forum presentations

Diesel and Marine Fuel Emissions in NSW - Sources and Trends (PDF 997KB)

Nick Agapides, NSW EPA

Exhaust Emissions from Ship Engines in Australian Waters - Focus on NSW Ports (PDF 4MB)

Dr Laurie Goldsworthy, Australian Maritime College

The Health Effects of Air Pollution (PDF 720KB)

Dr Richard Broome, Deputy Director Environmental Health, NSW Health

Sulphur Compliance and Enforcement - A Shipping Perspective (PDF 3MB)

Roger Strevens, Vice President and Global Head of Environment, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL)

Emission Reduction Measures NSW EPA Project (PDF 1.4MB)

Jonathan Abrahams, Head of Maritime Advisory (Australia) DNV.GL

Assessment of feasibility of emission reduction measures for ships at major NSW ports

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) contracted Det Norske Veritas (Australia) Pty Ltd (DNV GL) to assess the technical feasibility, costs and emission impacts of adopting emission reduction measures for ships at major ports in the NSW greater metropolitan area (GMA).

The DNV GL analysis and report includes:

  • A stocktake and evaluation of measures used nationally and internationally to reduce ship emissions. These include broad policy instruments, economic instruments, management practices, technological options and voluntary measures.
  • An assessment of the logistical and technical feasibility of adopting lower sulfur fuel, scrubbers and shore side power for ships.

The DNV GL report includes key information:

  • A discussion about marine fuel types and suppliers in the greater metropolitan area, along with a description of different engine types, their purpose and configurations. A review of all measures and technologies used nationally and internationally to reduce ship emissions (especially carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and sulphur oxides) and the effectiveness of each measure and control technology.
  • An overview of international conventions for the control of shipping emissions including global and regional (e.g. emission control areas (ECA)) requirements for nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides. An introduction to Australian shipping emissions legislation is presented, along with a number of incentive schemes introduced overseas.
  • A description of the data and methods used to estimate shipping emissions and the geographical extent of the greater metropolitan area.
  • The results of the 2013 base year emission inventory for the greater metropolitan area, including detailed information for the ports of Newcastle, Port Jackson, Port Botany and Port Kembla. Information about ships types, marine traffic volumes and fuel consumption are also presented. Forecast marine traffic and emissions of particulate matter and sulphur oxides are presented from 2014 to 2030, including business as usual (BAU) and NSW specific initiatives to reduce sulfur in marine fuels. Costs of the various control technologies are compared and a preliminary financial analysis is presented for adopting either low sulfur marine fuels or scrubber technologies in NSW.
  • An outline of stakeholder consultation that was done to gather information and data is presented.

The final report, NSW EPA Ship Emission Study, Emissions from Ships Operating in the Greater Metropolitan Area (PDF 2.9MB), is available for download.

Cleaner ports

As exploratory work, PAE Holmes was commissioned to study potential measures to reduce pollution from NSW ports.

Key elements of this study included the development of a detailed emission inventory and a survey of the major stakeholders involved in NSW ports on possible mitigation measures.

The study provided background to support consultation with industry stakeholders on potential measures to reduce port emissions.

The final report, Potential measures to reduce air pollution from NSW ports: A preliminary study undertaken by PAE Holmes (PDF 1.2MB), is available for download.

White Bay air quality monitoring

Sydney Ports publishes air quality monitoring reports for White Bay.

More information on shipping emissions

Page last updated: 08 September 2017