The association that represents international liners says cruise ships coming to New Zealand from January next year will meet new clean-burning standards.
The Marlborough District Council has started a year-long study of air quality in Picton, which is expected to see an increase in shipping and a rise in tourism.
It said more cruise ships were expected, and New Zealand had not yet signed up to be part of an international treaty to reduce ship emissions.
The council was urging New Zealand to sign the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (or MARPOL), through its submission to a Ministry of Transport-led process.
The ministry announced last November it was seeking public and sector input into a decision on whether New Zealand should sign Annex VI of the treaty, which focused on the use of clean-burning fuels.
The International Maritime Organisation treaty, Annex VI of MARPOL, regulated emissions that were harmful to public health, depleted the ozone layer and contributed to climate change.
Its aim was to reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality around our ports and harbours, provide investment certainty to domestic ship owners and fuel suppliers and demonstrate commitment to the 'level playing field' for international maritime regulation that New Zealand benefited from as a trading and maritime nation, a Ministry document said.
It also said that the new regulations would impose costs on ship owners and operators, and their customers, because ships burning heavy fuel oil would need to switch to low sulphur fuel.
Joel Katz of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said member companies operating cruise ships that visited New Zealand would soon be using either low-sulphur fuel or would be fitted with compliant exhaust gas cleaning systems.
"Regardless of whether New Zealand is a signatory to this particular part of Marpol, we've already committed to the New Zealand government that from the first of January 2020 our CLIA cruise line members will be in compliance," Mr Katz said.
He said the cruise industry was governed by many layers of international regulations and there were likely to be complex reasons over why the New Zealand government had not yet signed up to Marpol. "But from an international operator perspective all our cruise lines will be compliant."