Further Reduction in SOx Emission Requirements and US/Canadian ECA Proposal

April 2009

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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 even further, when it met for its 58th session at IMOs London headquarters in October 2008.

The main changes to MARPOL Annex VI will see a progressive reduction in sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions from ships, with the global sulphur cap reduced initially to 3.50% (from the current 4.50%), effective from 1 January 2012; then progressively to 0.50 %, effective from 1 January 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018.

The limits applicable in Sulphur 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 nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from marine engines were also agreed, with the most stringent controls on so-called Tier III engines, i.e. 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 (ECA)* 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 worlds 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.

Based on IMO Briefing 46/2008 of 10 October 2008 relating the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 58th session: 6 to 10 October 2008.

*Emission Control Areas (ECAs) 

The Baltic Sea Area was designated as a SOx Emission Control Area (SECA) in the Protocol itself. Although the regulations entered into force on 19 May 2005, a provision allowed for a 12 month period from the date of entry into force before the limits in a SECA could be enforced. Therefore the Baltic Sea SECA came into effect on 19 May 2006.

The North Sea and English Channel SOx Emission Control Area (SECA) was adopted as an amendment to Annex VI in July 2005. It came into effect in on 22 November 2007.  

On 27 March 2009 the U.S. and Canada jointly proposed to IMO’s MEPC the designation of an ECA for specified portions of the U.S. and Canadian coastal waters. If approved, the designation will require all vessels operating within the ECA (whether or not destined for either country) to reduce SOx, fine particulate matter and NOx emissions. The background to and further details on the proposal are given in by Blank Rome in their Maritime Developments Advisory No.8 of April 2009 which can be downloaded below with kind permission of Blank Rome.   

Further background information about MARPOL Annex VI is available on the IMO webpage on Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships on the IMO website at: www.imo.org/Environment/mainframe.asp?topic_id=233

Update - August 2009

In July 2009 IMO's MEPC approved the proposal to designate specific portions of the coastal waters of the United States and Canada as an Emission Control Area (ECA). The ECA would be for the control of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), and particulate matter, under the revised MARPOL Annex VI Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships, which was adopted in October 2008 and is expected to come into force on 1 July 2010.

The draft amendments to the revised MARPOL Annex VI concerning the proposed ECA will be submitted to MEPC 60 (March 2010) for adoption (i.e. after the deemed acceptance date of the revised MARPOL Annex VI on 1 January 2010).

For regulations in California see: California - Regulations on Fuel Sulfur and Other Operational Requirements