MIAMI -- Carnival Corp. is expanding a clean-air program it announced last year, more than doubling the number of ships that will have exhaust cleaning systems installed -- at roughly double the price.
That means the Doral-based cruise giant will place the "scrubber" technology it has been developing on at least 70 ships at a cost of up to $400 million. The dual filtration and scrubbing systems are expected to be installed on ships in six of the parent company's brands over the next three years.
"We're now far enough along in the research and development and we have a few of the initial scrubbers installed," said Tom Dow, Carnival's vice president of public affairs, in an interview Wednesday. "It's given us enough confidence to say we want to roll this out even more broadly."
In September, Carnival said it would spend more than $180 million on new technology that would clean fuel exhaust on 32 of its ships in order to meet air-pollution standards for waters off North American coasts going into effect in 2015.
The Environmental Protection Agency said last year it would allow Carnival to burn standard fuel at sea -- rather than a more expensive version with less sulfur -- while testing the equipment.
Already, the parent company has announced that namesake brand Carnival Cruise Lines will bring ships back to Baltimore and Norfolk -- home ports it had previously said it would leave because of the high cost of cleaner fuel -- next year.
The original announcement covered ships in the Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Cunard brands; the latest news includes more ships from those brands as well as AIDA Cruises and Cos
International Maritime Organization requirements will limit large oceangoing ships to fuel that contains a maximum of 0.1 percent sulfur in zones that extend up to 200 miles from North American shores by 2015. The restricted area off South Florida is far smaller because of its proximity to the Bahamas.
Carnival said its technology will also satisfy global standards expected to limit fuel to 0.5 percent sulfur by 2020.
"This is a key step forward for Carnival Corporation and its 10 brands -- and most importantly for the environment," said Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald in a statement. "We believe Carnival Corporation's investment in this industry-leading technology will set a new course in environmental protection and cleaner air for years to come."
Dow said that as 2020 approaches, the company will likely outfit even more of its ships with the technology.
"We know that this will give us maximum flexibility," he said. "Flexibility is an asset to our industry so that we can deploy ships where the market demand is the greatest."