Those in Saint John who rely on the cruise ship industry are planning how to deal with an expected decline in the number of ships calling on the port in the coming years.

Starting in 2015, all cruise ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the Canadian or United States coast will be required to use a fuel containing less sulphur. That is expected to push fuel expenses for the cruise lines higher and make it more expensive for ships to operate in areas such as Atlantic Canada.

Kim Peckett

Kim Peckett says his souvenir business would not exist if it wasn't for the cruise ships that call on Saint John. (CBC)

Already, it has been announced the Carnival Glory will move its home port from Saint John to Miami next year to get ahead of the fuel changes.

Saint John is expecting eight fewer cruise ships to visit its port in 2014. Some of the worst-case estimates for 2015 see 36 fewer cruise trips in Atlantic Canada.

Each of those ships carries thousands of tourists, with local businesses in Saint John eager for them to make purchases in the city during their time in port. For instance, three cruise ships docked in Saint John Wednesday, dispersing 11,000 passengers with money to spend in the city.

"It's very important," said Kim Peckett, who operates the Distant Waters souvenir shop. "We've been here 11 years and if there wasn't no cruise ships, we would not be here."

The Saint John Port Authority is monitoring the changes closely. Betty MacMillan says the Port Authority is encouraged by changes Carnival is making to its ships.

"They've in the meantime been able to sign an agreement with the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] in the United States and with Transport Canada and they're going to be re-fitting some ships with scrubbers," said MacMillan. "So we're talking to them about increasing the numbers again in '15."

The lower number of cruise ships visiting Saint John next year will mean 35,000 fewer passengers in port.

Ross Jefferson of Discover Saint John says the tourism industry will have to look elsewhere to make up for that loss of potential customers.

"Cruise represents just under 10 per cent of our overall visitation," said Jefferson. "And run of the year we get about 1.5 million people that visit Saint John and they spend about a quarter of a billion dollars each year.

"Cruise is an important part of that, but we're not exclusively reliant on the cruise business.