(2:50 p.m. EDT) -- The future is now. Though it's still more than a year before the low-sulfur fuel requirements of the North American Emission Control Area go into effect, Carnival Cruise Lines is painting a picture of what post-ECA deployments could look like. For Carnival, that means no ships homeporting out of Baltimore, Boston or Norfolk, Virginia, and a limited number of Atlantic Canada cruises.

Carnival will reposition Carnival Pride from Baltimore to Tampa, Florida, in December 2014, just one month before the ECA regulations go into effect. Carnival Glory, which has sailed seasonally from Boston and Norfolk, will move from Norfolk to Miami in November 2013, well ahead of the January 1, 2015 deadline. Carnival will not deploy another ship to either port. Additionally, Carnival will "dramatically reduce" the number of Atlantic Canada cruises starting in 2014.

Carnival is citing ECA for the deployment changes.

"Itinerary operating costs including fuel costs are a factor in our deployment decisions," Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen told Cruise Critic. "The 2015 North America ECA requirements would significantly impact our fuels costs for operating cruises from Norfolk and Boston and many other ports around North America."

ECA is a 200-nautical mile border around the U.S. and Canadian coasts set up by the International Maritime Organization in association with the in Environmental Protection Agency in August 2012. It runs from the tip of Labrador in Canada, around the bottom of Florida (where the zone narrows briefly) and across to the tip of Texas on the east, and from the bottom of California up around Alaska and includes the coastlines of the Hawaiian islands. Currently, all ships operating in the ECA zone must use fuel containing no more than 1.0 percent sulfur. But by January 1, 2015, ships must use fuel containing less than 0.1 percent sulfur.

The cruise industry is worried about the new regulation because low-sulfur fuel is harder to obtain and very expensive. Industry officials have repeatedly stated that if they are forced to go to the low-sulfur fuel they will need to move ships out of the ECA zone. According to a Baltimore Sun article, Maryland port officials predict the more expensive fuel would add up to $140 per passenger to fares on sailings from Baltimore to Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.

And last year the Cruise Lines International Association released a report warning the requirements would have a detrimental impact on cruise lines and several U.S. homeports.

CLIA analyzed projected cost increases and determined they would result in the loss of 202 seven-day itineraries in three markets: 132 in Alaska, 36 in Canada/New England and 34 in the Northeast/Bahamas/Caribbean market.

"This is the equivalent to the redeployment of nine cruise ships from the three markets," the report states.

Carnival's redeployment moves, therefore, might be a sign of the future, though the line has no plans to pull Carnival Splendor out of New York City. But the ship will only sail a very limited number of Atlantic Canada cruises; most sailings will head south. Carnival Fantasy also is still scheduled to sail seven-day Bahamas/Key West cruises from Charleston, South Carolina, through 2014.

The difference, Gulliksen said, is "the amount of time that a ship operates within the defined ECA zone." The line's current Norfolk, Baltimore and Boston itineraries operate for a "significant amount" within the ECA zone. And all Atlantic Canada cruises operate entirely within the ECA zone.

Other lines have not made any redeployment moves yet. Royal Caribbean, for instance, is committed to sailing Grandeur of the Seas out of Baltimore through at least April 2015. And both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line will sail New England/Canada cruises out of Boston in 2014.

But Royal Caribbean and Carnival are actively pursuing alternative engine scrubber technologies they say will have the same emission-lowering affect as low-sulfur fuel.

"Carnival fully supports the environmental objectives of the ECA and is working on a wide variety of initiatives, including new technology, that could help to mitigate some of this fuel cost impact," Carnival's Gulliksen said.

And Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.'s associate vice president of safety and environmental stewardship, Rich Pruitt, said the line is working "closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard and Transport Canada to develop an approach designed to benefit the broader maritime industry… We are seeking permits for six of our vessels engaged in developing and retrofitting exhaust gas cleaning systems for its engines."

Carnival, too, is in talks with the EPA to about getting a temporary exemption from the low-sulfur fuel requirement while it develops scrubber technology.

In the meantime, Gulliksen said, itinerary changes are required "in the short term to allow us to more fully evaluate our mitigation options."

"We will evaluate all viable options to return to these ports in the future," he added.

--by Dori Saltzman, News Editor