October 10, 2008
lMO's MEPC moves to cut ship emissions
IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) unanimously adopted amendments to the MARPOL Annex VI regulations to reduce harmful emissions from ships, when it met for its 58th session at IMO's London headquarters.
In the U.S., the EPA says it can now move forward with a domestic rulemaking action under the Clean Air Act. It notes that under the Annex VI amendments, ships that operate in emissions control areas (ECAs) will be subject to more stringent standards. EPA says it "will work closely with its federal partners to submit an application to the IMO for ECA status for U.S. coastal areas."
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% (from the current 4.50%), effective from January 1, 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 Sulfur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) will be reduced to 1.00%, beginning on July 1, 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 January 1, 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.
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 U.S. became the 53rd state to ratify Annex VI when it deposited its instrument of ratification with IMO this week.
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.
In the U.S., the Environmental Defense Fund praised the adoption of the new clean air standards but noted the action did not address greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming pollution. The Environmental Defense Fund said it "respectfully urges international action, building from today's historic measures, to address the heat-trapping emissions from these large ships."
The Environmental Defense fund also called on the United States to adopt an Emission Control Area (ECA) delineating protective zones in America's territorial waters where stronger clean air standards must be met.