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March, 2011:

IMO Officially Adopts Emission Control Area Proposal

30 March 2011

The International Maritime Organization (IMO)has accepted the proposal to designate waters off the North American coasts as an Emission Control Area (ECA) – a move that will result in cleaner air for millions of Americans. Large ships that operate in ECAs must use dramatically cleaner fuel and technology, leading to major air quality and public health benefits that extend hundreds of miles inland. The ECA was proposed in March 2009 and the IMO adopted it in the fastest possible timetable.

“This is a change that will benefit millions of people and set in motion new innovations for the shipping industry. We’re gratified by the IMO’s decision to help keep our air clean and our communities healthy,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “The sulfur, particulate emissions and other harmful pollutants from large ships reach from our ports to communities hundreds of miles inland – bringing with them health, environmental and economic burdens. Cleaning up our shipping lanes will be a boon to communities across North America.”

The large commercial ships that visit the nation’s ports, such as oil tankers, cruise ships and container ships, currently use fuel with very high sulfur content which, when burned, emits harmful levels of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide that can travel hundreds of miles inland, causing severe respiratory symptoms in children and adults. These ships, most flying the flags of other countries, make more than 57,000 calls at more than 100 U.S. ports annually. More than 30 of these ports are in metropolitan areas that fail to meet federal air quality standards. In total, nearly 127 million people currently live in areas that fail to meet U.S. air quality standards.

Enforcing the stringent ECA standards will reduce sulfur content in fuel by 98 percent – slashing particulate matter emissions by 85 percent, and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 80 percent. To achieve these reductions, tougher sulfur standards will phase in starting in 2012, ultimately reaching no more than 1,000 parts per million by 2015. Also, new ships must use advanced emission control technologies beginning in 2016, which will help reduce NOx emissions.

As a result of the cleaner air, nearly 5 million people will experience relief from acute respiratory symptoms in 2020 and as many as 14,000 lives will be saved each year.

Canada and France join the United States in this North American ECA, implementing a coordinated geographic emissions control program. In developing the U.S. proposal, EPA joined with federal partners at the departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State, Transportation, and Commerce, among others. This is the first ECA adopted under amendments to an IMO treaty in 2008 that strengthened and expanded both the ECA emissions standards and the approval criteria.

The North American ECA is a key part of a comprehensive EPA program to address harmful emissions from large ships. Other elements include voluntary partnerships under EPA’s Clean Ports USA program and implementation of a Clean Air Act rulemaking that EPA finalized last December.

Proposal of Emission Control Area to Reduce Emissions from Ships in the U.S. Caribbean

The Proposed U.S. Caribbean ECA

The area of the proposed U.S. Caribbean ECA includes waters adjacent to coasts of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The northern and southern boundaries of the proposed area would extend roughly 50 nautical miles (nm) and 40 nm, respectively, from the territorial sea baseline of the main island of Puerto Rico. The western edge of the proposed area would generally run north-south, about half way between the Puerto Rican island of Mona and the west coast of the main island. The eastern edge of the proposed area would generally run north-south, but extend eastward through the area between the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands and also eastward through the area between Saint Croix and Anguilla and Saint Kitts. The proposed ECA is bounded such that it does not extend into marine areas subject to the sovereignty, sovereign rights, or jurisdiction of any state other than the United States.

North American Emission Control Area

On March 26, 2010, the IMO officially designated waters off North American coasts as an area in which stringent international emission standards will apply to ships. These standards will dramatically reduce air pollution from ships and deliver substantial air quality and public health benefits that extend hundreds of miles inland.

In 2020, EPA expects emissions from ships operating in the designated area to be reduced by 320,000 tons for NOx, 90,000 tons for PM2.5, and 920,000 tons for SOx, which is 23 percent, 74 percent, and 86 percent, respectively, below predicted levels in 2020 absent the ECA.

In practice, implementation of the ECA means that ships entering the designated area would need to use compliant fuel for the duration of their voyage that is within that area, including time in port as well as voyages whose routes pass through the area without calling on a port.  The quality of fuel that complies with the ECA standard will change over time. From the effective date in 2012 until 2015, fuel used by all vessels operating in designated areas cannot exceed 1.0 percent sulfur (10,000 ppm). Beginning in 2015, fuel used by vessels operating in these areas cannot exceed 0.1 percent sulfur (1,000 ppm).  Beginning in 2016, NOx afte rtreatment requirements become applicable

The area of the North American ECA includes waters adjacent to the Pacific coast, the Atlantic/Gulf coast and the eight main Hawaiian Islands.1 (footnote). It extends up to 200 nautical miles from coasts of the United States, Canada and the French territories, except that it does not extend into marine areas subject to the sovereignty or jurisdiction of other States.

Maersk to use low-sulphur fuel in NZ


Photo / Hawke’s Bay Today

Maersk Line ships will switch to low-sulphur fuel when in New Zealand ports to cut pollution in cities.

The shipping line says the switch lowers sulphur oxide levels in their exhaust gases by more than 80 per cent.

Maersk’s New Zealand managing director, Julian Bevis, said marine fuels were higher in sulphur content that those used on land and while the industry as a whole was examining ways to reduce total emissions, switching to low-sulphur fuels in port was a way of improving the environmental performance of the fleet and improving air quality in and around New Zealand’s ports.

The company has already begun similar initiatives in Hong Kong, Europe and several North American ports.