Tuesday, March 30, 2010

UN Adopts 200-Mile Clean-Fuel Zone Around US/Canada Coasts

The United Nation regulatory agency for international shipping has approved new rules that establish a 200-nautical-mile zone around United States and Canadian coasts as an area in which stringent international air pollution emission standards will apply for ocean-going vessels.

The International Maritime Organization, which sets rules for safety, security and environmental issues related to international shipping, adopted the new rules Friday in London.

The new rules amend current IMO regulations regarding vessel emissions and formally establish the 200-mile-out North American Emission Control Area in which emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter from ships will be subject to more stringent controls.

The control zones cover the entire Pacific Coast of the US and Canada from Cook Inlet in Alaska to the Mexican border, the entire US Gulf Coast, and the East Coast of both countries up to northern tip of Labrador in Canada. Also covered under the new rules are the eight major Hawaiian Islands and some French territories off the eastern coast of Canada. Expansion to include all US territories, all Hawaiian islands and the West coast of Alaska may be proposed by the U.S government for consideration by the IMO in the future.

Under the new rules, ships traveling within the emission control areas face progressively more stringent emission thresholds between July of this year and 2015 for SOx and NOx.

Typical bunker fuel being used today by ocean-going vessels has a sulfur content of between 75,000 and 100,000 parts per million of sulfur. Under the new rules, vessels traveling within the 200-mile control area will have until July of this year to use fuel with no more than 15,000 parts per million. Sulfur content of fuel used in the control areas must be no greater than 10,000 parts per million by the end of the year and no more than 1,000 parts per million by 2015.

The new rules also require engine modifications to reduce NOx emission by up to 80 percent by 2016. Particulate matter emitted by vessels is expected to drop as the cleaner burning fuel and NOx control systems are implemented.

Despite emission standards under the rules that take effect this year, the IMO will not begin enforcing the control areas until August 2012.

The IMO rules, when fully implemented, will also supersede the current 24-mile clean-fuel zone around the state of California adopted last year by state lawmakers.