Harbourfront suburbs will now breathe easier after Turnbull Government agreed to renew restrictions on sulphur content of fuels that are used by cruise ships docked in Sydney Harbour.
Balmain residents living near White Bay cruise ship terminal have long been concerned about harmful emissions from 90,000-plus-tonne ships that berth in the harbour.
The Baird Government had responded to the community campaign and enforced the use of low-sulphur fuel inside the harbour but a federal-state jurisdictional issue rendered the NSW law inoperative in June.
While the state had insisted on sulphur content of no more than 0.1 per cent of the tank, federal laws mandate a minimum content of 3.5 per cent.
Federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester said he had instructed the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to direct a 0.1 per cent upper limit for fuel-oil sulphur content under the Navigation Act.
Some cruise-line companies have complained that low-sulphur fuel costs $250-a-tonne more than heavier fuels and would impact on business but Mr Chester said two major operators, Carnival Australia and Royal Caribbean, the two major users of White Bay, were already voluntarily complying.
Mr Chester said:
"Sydney Harbour is one of the world's most recognised landscapes and hosts a large number of cruise ships every year. They bring thousands of tourists who enjoy our world-class harbour, spend money at local businesses and eat at our great restaurants during their stay.
"We welcome these valuable visitors, but we also need to regulate the presence of cruise ships to ensure we retain a healthy working harbour. I've heard the concerns of local residents living close to the White Bay cruise ship terminal."
Shadow infrastructure and transport spokesman Anthony Albanese, whose redrawn seat of Grayndler includes affected Balmain residents, lobbied the government for the change.
"This order will achieve the precise protection the NSW Government had previously sought to enact for berthed ships," he said.
Mr Albanese said he would now fight to force the state government to provide shore to ship power to preclude ships having to burn fuel in dock.