New and more stringent regulations to reduce harmful emissions from ships are expected to have a significant beneficial impact on the atmospheric environment and on human health, particularly that of people living in port cities and coastal communities.
The revised Annex VI (Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL convention) enters into force globally on 1 July 2010, together with important reductions in sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions in specific areas. It was adopted in October 2008.
The main changes to MARPOL Annex VI will see a progressive reduction of SOx emissions from ships, with the global sulphur cap reduced initially to 3.50% (from the current 4.50%), effective from 1 January 2012; then progressively to 0.50 %, effective from 1 January 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018.
The revised Annex VI allows for Emission Control Areas (ECAs) to be designated for SOx and particulate matter, or NOx, or all three types of emissions from ships, subject to a proposal from a Party or Parties to the Annex, which would be considered for adoption by the Organization, if supported by a demonstrated need to prevent, reduce and control one or all three of those emissions from ships.
The limits applicable in sulphur ECAs are reduced to 1.00%, beginning on 1 July 2010 (from the current 1.50%); being further reduced to 0.10%, effective from 1 January 2015. This means that ships trading in the current ECAs will have to burn fuel of lower sulphur content (or use an alternative method to reduce emissions) from 1 July 2010.
The revised Annex lists two ECAs for the control of SOx, and particulate matter: the Baltic Sea area and the North Sea, which includes the English Channel.
A new North American ECA, for SOx, nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter was adopted by IMO in March 2010. The regulations to implement this ECA are expected to enter into force in August 2011, with the ECA becoming effective from August 2012.
Progressive reductions in NOx emissions from marine engines also come into force, with the most stringent controls on so-called "Tier III" engines, i.e. those installed on ships constructed on or after 1 January 2016, operating in ECAs.
The MARPOL Annex VI Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships have, to date, been ratified by 59 countries, representing approximately 84.23 % of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping fleet.
Greenhouse gas emissions from ships
Meanwhile, IMO has been addressing the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from ships, as part of IMO’s contribution to the worldwide efforts to stem climate change and global warming and good progress has already been made on related technical and operational measures, with further work being undertaken on market-based measures.
Further consideration of measures to reduce GHGs from ships will continue at the next session of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 61), which will meet from 27 September to 1 October 2010.
IMO – the International Maritime Organization – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
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