The cost of cross-Channel ferry fares will rise by £50 because of new EU emissions rules, according to P&O Ferries.

A return ticket for a family of four travelling from Dover to Calais will go up from £160 to £210 from January 1.

The company blamed new rules set in Brussels, which force operators of ships in the English Channel, North Sea and Baltic Sea to adopt more expensive low-sulphur fuel, called marine gas-oil.

They will also have to install filtering equipment, called ‘scrubbers’, costing millions of pounds.

The UK Chamber of Shipping said that some routes could close as the new rules made them economically unviable.

It released a statement to the Daily Mail which said: “Routes teetering on the edge of economic viability will be pushed off the edge.”

Independent consultants Amec told the paper that the move could cost 2,000 jobs and spell the end of some routes.

The EU Sulphur Directive states that all commercial ships must use 0.1% sulphur fuel by midnight on January 1, or install scrubbers to prevent emissions of sulphur dioxide, which produces acid rain and fine dust that causes respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

A P&O Ferries spokesman said: “Consumers will be picking up the bill for this because shipping companies cannot bear this cost alone.

“Marine gas-oil is considerably more expensive than the fuel we use today, so we can predict price increases for both freight and tourist customers.

“All shipping companies will be affected but our biggest rival, the Channel Tunnel, will not be affected. Peak-time sailings might cost 30 per cent more than people paid last year.”

A European Commission spokesman said: “Sulphur dioxide emissions result in acid rain and fine dust that causes respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

“They are a direct health hazard in particular near major ports – like Dover.

“The savings on healthcare and the environmental benefits will far exceed the costs of implementing the agreed International Maritime Organisation measures.”