Friday, October 10, 2008

U.S. Ratifies & New International Ship Pollution Regs Adopted

Oct 10: According to a release from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United States of America has become the 53rd state to ratify Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), with the deposition of an instrument of ratification with IMO. Annex VI, which was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in May 2005, regulates the discharge of atmospheric pollutants from ships. Among other things, it set, for the first time, limits on sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ships' exhausts; prohibited deliberate emissions of ozone-depleting substances and put a global cap on the sulphur content of fuel oil. The U.S. ratification, brings to 81.88 the percentage of gross world merchant shipping tonnage covered by the aforementioned regulations and comes as a detailed review of the provisions of Annex VI is reaching a conclusion.

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, is known universally as MARPOL. MARPOL has six separate annexes, which set out regulations dealing with pollution from ships by oil; by noxious liquid substances carried in bulk; by harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form; by sewage, by garbage; and with the prevention of air pollution from ships.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of IMP is meeting at its Headquarters in London in its 58th session from October 6-10, and has adopted the proposed amendments to the MARPOL Annex VI regulations to reduce harmful emissions from ships. The Committee is also continue its work on developing a mandatory regime to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping. The Committee's agenda also includes the consideration of the draft ship recycling convention and issues relating to the implementation of the 2004 Ballast Water Management Convention.

The main changes to Annex VI would see progressive substantial reductions in sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ships. The revised Annex VI will allow for the designation of Emission Control Areas, for SOx and particulate matter, or NOx, or all three types of emissions from ships, in which more stringent controls would apply. According to IMO, 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.

U.S. EPA said it can now move forward with a domestic rulemaking action under the Clean Air Act (CAA) and "when fully implemented, this will help reduce harmful emissions by 80 percent or more from large diesel ships, including those that are foreign-flagged operating in U.S. waters." Margo Oge, director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality said, "Massive reductions in air pollution from these large ships will help 87 million Americans living in areas around ports that don't meet air quality standards breathe cleaner air. Pollution emitted by ships along the U.S. coastlines and waterways can move inland where it worsens air quality."

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) praised the member nations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for adopting what they called "strong new emissions standards to limit the lethal particulate and smog-forming pollution from ocean-going vessels." These new standards will apply to ocean-going ships such as container ships and tankers that operate around the world. Janea Scott, a senior attorney in the Los Angeles office of EDF said, “Nearly 90% of ships that call on U.S. ports are foreign-flagged ships, so the progress we made at the international level today is especially important to people living in communities near U.S. ports and along our nation’s coastlines. This newly adopted international regulation will ensure that all ships, both domestic and foreign, are held to the same rigorous emissions standards.”

Access a release from IMO on the U.S. ratification (
click here). Access a release on the new regulations adopted (click here). Access a release on the MEPC meeting (click here). Access detailed information on MARPOL (click here). Access the IMO website for extensive information (click here). Access a release from EPA with links to related information (click here). Access a lengthy release from EDF with links to additional information (click here). [*Air, *Water, *Transport]