7 April 2008

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has approved proposed amendments to the MARPOL Annex VI regulations to reduce emissions from ships. The revised regulation introduces a progressive reduction of sulfur levels in heavy bunker fuels—with a final global cap of 0.5% sulfur effective from 2020—as well as more stringent Tier II and Tier III NOx emission standards for marine engines.

The revised Annex includes a series of progressive standards in the regulation 14 Sulphur Oxides (SOx) and Particulate Matter (PM) that would result in reduction of SOx and PM emissions from ships. The principal elements are as follows:

  • the sulfur limit applicable in Emission Control Areas beginning on 1 March 2010 would be 1.00% (10,000 ppm), reduced from the current 1.50% (15,000 ppm);
  • the global sulfur cap would be reduced to 3.50% (35,000 ppm), from the current 4.50% (45,000 ppm), effective from 1 January 2012;
  • the sulfur limit applicable in Emission Control Areas effective from 1 January 2015 would be 0.10 % (1,000 ppm);
  • the global sulfur cap would be reduced to 0.50% (5,000 ppm) effective from 1 January 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018. Should the 2018 review reach a negative conclusion, the effective date would default to 1 January 2025; and
  • introduction of a fuel availability provision under regulation 18 Fuel Oil Availability and Quality that outlines what actions are appropriate should a ship be unable to obtain the fuel necessary to comply with a given requirement under regulation 14.

The new regulation introduces a three-tier structure for NOx emission standards for new marine engines, depending on the date of their installation, with significant emission reductions (Tier III) mandated for ships operated within designated Emission Control Areas:

  • Tier I applies to a diesel engine which is installed on a ship constructed on or after 1 January 2000 and prior to 1 January 2011, and represents the 17 g/kWh standard stipulated in the existing Annex VI.
  • For Tier II, NOx emission levels for a diesel engine installed from 1 January 2011 would be reduced to 14.4 g/kWh.
  • For Tier III, NOx emission levels for a diesel engine installed from 1 January 2016 would be reduced to 3.4 g/kWh, when the ship is operating in a designated Emission Control Area. Outside a designated Emission Control Area, Tier II limits apply.

The revised Annex VI will allow for an “Emission Control Area” to be designated for SOx and PM, or NOx, or all three types of emissions from ships, subject to a proposal from a Party to the Annex. Currently designated SOx Emission Control Areas include the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. Future Emission Control Areas could also include zones around pollution sensitive ports.

NOx standards have been also adopted for existing engines. A NOx emission limit of 17.0 g/kWh applies for a diesel engine with a power output of more than 5,000 kW and a displacement per cylinder at, or above, 90 liters installed on a ship constructed on or after 1 January 1990 but prior to 1 January 2000.

The amendments introduce changes to the NOx Technical Code, to give a revised NOx Technical Code 2008, which includes provisions for measurement and monitoring methods, a certification procedure for existing engines, and test cycles to be applied to Tier II and Tier III engines.

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 49 countries, representing approximately 74.77% of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping fleet.

The proposed draft amendments to Annex VI and the NOx Technical Code will now be submitted to MEPC 58 (which meets from 6 to 10 October 2008) for adoption. This would see the revised Annex VI enter into force in 2010.

The MEPC also endorsed a proposal to expedite the IMO’s work on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in particular as regards developing the CO2 Emission Indexing Scheme and the CO2 Emission Baseline(s).

Source: IMO