IMO Adopts Revised Regulations on Ship Emissions

Jose Michael

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) unanimously adopted amendments to the MARPOL Annex VI regulations to reduce harmful emissions from ships. The main changes to MARPOL Annex VI will see a progressive reduction in sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions from ships, with the global sulfur cap reduced initially to 3.50% (35,000 ppm) from the current 4.50% (45,000 ppm), effective from 1 January 2012; then progressively to 0.50% (5,000 ppm), effective from 1 January 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018.

The limits applicable in Sulfur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) will be reduced to 1.00%, beginning on 1 July 2010 (from the current 1.50 %); being further reduced to 0.10%, effective from 1 January 2015.

Progressive reductions in NOx emissions from marine engines were also agreed upon, with the most stringent controls on Tier III engines—those installed on ships constructed on or after 1 January 2016, operating in Emission Control Areas.

The revised Annex VI will allow for an Emission Control Area to be designated for SOx and particulate matter, or NOx, or all three types of emissions from ships, subject to a proposal from a Party or Parties to the Annex, which would be considered for adoption by the Organization, if supported by a demonstrated need to prevent, reduce and control one or all three of those emissions from ships.

The revised Annex VI will enter into force on 1 July 2010, under the tacit acceptance amendment procedure.

MARPOL Annex VI Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships entered into force in May 2005 and has, so far, been ratified by 53 countries, representing approximately 81.88% of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping fleet.

The MEPC also adopted amendments to the associated NOx Technical Code, to give a revised NOx Technical Code 2008. The amended Code includes a new chapter based on the agreed approach for NOx regulation of existing (pre-2000) engines established in MARPOL Annex VI, and provisions for direct measurement and monitoring methods, a certification procedure for existing engines, and test cycles to be applied to Tier II and Tier III engines.

Revised Guidelines for Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems and Guidelines for the development of a VOC management plan were also adopted.

US EPA. In response to the adoption of the new standards, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it will move forward with a domestic rulemaking action under the Clean Air Act that incorporates the new standards. Earlier in the year, US President George Bush signed into law the Maritime Pollution Protection Act of 2008, which cleared the way for US ratification of MARPOL Annex VI.

As emissions decline from other transportation sources, ship emissions are becoming a larger part of the pollution inventory. In 2001, oceangoing vessels contributed nearly six percent of nitrogen oxide (NOx), more than 10% of particulate matter (PM), and about 40% of sulfur dioxide (SOx) to US air pollution from mobile sources. Without further controls, pollution will increase to about 34% of NOx, 45% of PM, and 94% of SOx emissions by 2030. Ocean-going vessels dock at more than 100 US ports—more than 40 of these ports are in metropolitan areas that do not meet federal air quality standards.

EPA will work closely with its federal partners to submit an application to the IMO for ECA status—with the more stringent regulations—for US coastal areas. ECA standards will ultimately achieve reductions of NOx by 80%, PM by 85%, and SOx by 95%, relative to current emissions levels.

California ARB. Earlier this year, the California Air Resources Board adopted a regulation that requires ocean-going vessels (OGV) within 24 nautical miles of California’s coastline to use lower-sulfur marine distillates in their main and auxiliary engines and auxiliary boilers, rather than the dirtier heavy-fuel oil called bunker fuel. About 2,000 ocean-going vessels visiting California ports annually are subject to this restriction.

The proposed California regulation requiring ships to use more refined fuel with lower sulfur content would be implemented in two steps. In 2009, MGO (marine gasoil) would have a sulfur limit of 1.5% (15,000 ppm), while MDO (marine diesel oil) would have a limit of 0.5% (5,000 ppm). In 2012, the limits for both fuels drops to 0.1% (1,000 ppm). Both US-flagged and foreign-flagged vessels are subject to the regulation which is the most stringent and comprehensive requirement for marine fuel-use in the world.

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