EPA, IMO Set Sail on Setting New Emission Standards for Large Ships

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward to increase diesel ship emission standards under the Clean Air Act after the International Maritime Organization adopted new rules for the vessels and the fuel they use. When fully implemented, standards 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.

"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," said Margo T. Oge, director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality. "Pollution emitted by ships along the U.S. coastlines and waterways can move inland where it worsens air quality."

Under the new IMO program, large ships that operate in emissions control areas (ECAs) will be subject to more stringent standards. In ECAs, ships use fuel that contains no more than 1,000 parts per million (ppm) sulfur, a 98 percent cut from the current global cap. ECA standards will ultimately achieve reductions of NOx by 80 percent, PM by 85 percent, and SOx by 95 percent, relative to current emissions levels. The engine standards will cut NOx emissions by 20 percent and will apply to new engines and to existing engines (as certified low-emission kits become available) beginning in 2011.

According to the EPA, as emissions decline from other transportation sources, ship emissions will become a larger part of the nation's pollution inventory. In 2001, oceangoing vessels contributed nearly six percent of nitrogen oxide (NOx), more than 10 percent of particulate matter (PM), and about 40 percent of sulfur dioxide (SOx) to the nation's air pollution from mobile sources. Without further controls, pollution will increase to about 34 percent of NOx, 45 percent of PM, and 94 percent of SOx emissions by 2030. Ocean-going vessels dock at over 100 U.S. ports. More than 40 of these ports are in metropolitan areas that do not meet federal air quality standards.

This new IMO program is contained in amendments to a treaty known as MARPOL Annex VI. These standards closely match last year's U.S. proposal to the IMO.

More information on EPA's efforts to cut emissions from large ships: epa.gov/otaq/oceanvessels.htm

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