27 August 2010

The United States has submitted a proposal to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to designate an Emission Control Area (ECA) for specific portions of the coastal waters around Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. This action would control the emission of NOx, SOx, and PM from ships operating in the area, most of which are flagged outside of the United States.

IMO members are slated to consider the Caribbean ECA proposal at the 61st session of the Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC 61), in London, beginning September 27, 2010. Final action on the proposal may be taken by Parties to Annex VI (those who have ratified the treaty) as early as MEPC 62, scheduled for summer 2011. Given the MARPOL amendment process and the lead time specified in the regulations, an ECA adopted at MEPC 62 could enter into force as early as 2014.

In October 2008, the IMO adopted new standards to control exhaust emissions from the engines that power ships. The member states of IMO agreed to amend Annex VI to the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), adopting new tiers of NOx and fuel sulfur controls. The most stringent of these new emission standards apply to ships operating in specially designated Emission Control Areas (ECAs):

  • Beginning in 2015, fuel used by all vessels operating in these areas cannot exceed 0.1% sulfur (1,000 ppm). This requirement is expected to reduce PM and SOx emissions by more than 85%.
  • Beginning in 2016, new engines on vessels operating in these areas must use emission controls that achieve an 80% reduction in NOx emissions (IMO Tier III).

Earlier this year, the IMO designated most waters along the continental US and Canadian coasts as the North American ECA for NOx and SOx emissions, enforceable from August 2012.

Source: US EPA