The North American Emission Control Area (ECA), under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), comes into effect from 1 August 2012, bringing in stricter controls on emissions of sulphur oxide (SOx), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter for ships trading off the coasts of Canada, the United States and the French overseas collectivity of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.
Amendments to MARPOL Annex VI (Regulations for the prevention of air pollution from ships) to establish the North American ECA entered into force on 1 August 2011, with a 12-month period before becoming effective.
There are now three designated ECAs in effect globally, the other two being sulphur oxide ECAs only in the Baltic Sea area and the North Sea area.
A fourth area, the United States Caribbean Sea ECA, covering certain waters adjacent to the coasts of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands, was designated under MARPOL amendments adopted in July 2011, with expected entry into force on 1 January 2013, with the new ECA taking effect 12 months later on 1 January 2014.
ECA emissions limits
Within ECAS, the sulphur content of fuel oil (expressed in terms of % m/m – that is, by weight) must be no more than 1.00% m/m; falling to 0.10% m/m on and after 1 January 2015.
This compares to 3.50% m/m outside an ECA, falling to 0.50% m/m on and after 1 January 2020. This date could be deferred to 1 January 2025, depending on the outcome of a review, to be completed by 2018, as to the availability of compliant fuel oil.
In practice, this means that, within an ECA, ships must burn fuel oil of a lower sulphur content. Alternatively, the ship may use any “fitting, material, appliance or apparatus or other procedures, alternative fuel oils, or compliance methods”, which are at least as effective in terms of emissions reductions, as approved by the Party to MARPOL Annex VI.
With regard to NOx emissions, marine diesel engines installed on a ship constructed on or after 1 January 2011 must comply with the “Tier II” standard set out in regulation 13 of MARPOL Annex VI. Marine diesel engines installed on a ship constructed on or after 1 January 2016 will be required to comply with the more stringent Tier III NOx standard, when operated in a designated NOx ECA.