Ports in Alaska have urged the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider its plans to impose stringent air quality requirements for cruise ships and other big vessels.

The EPA wants all large vessels to stop using bunker fuels within 200 nautical miles of US shorelines, saying that the reduction in air pollution could save the lives of 8,300 people a year.

The Alaskan Ports are, however, worried that stricter regulations would make cruise operators, already hit by the economic downturn, reluctant to choose Alaska as a destination.

Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Lisa Murkowski have both submitted comments to the EPA, asking the agency to consider gathering Alaska-specific data before imposing air quality standards based on modelling done at other US port cities.

The EPA expects its rules to be finalised by December, after which it plans to ban the sale of high-sulphur fuel in US coastal and internal waters beginning 2012.

It would also require that new engines in US ships meet nitrogen oxide controls that match a North American emission control area supported by the US and Canada.

By 2016, the EPA wants all new engines on vessels operating in the emission control area use equipment that reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%.