Big Victory for Clean Air! Emission Control Area Created Around U.S. and Canadian Coastlines

cargo ship photo

Photo: Flickr, CC
Cargo Ships to Go on a Sulfur Diet
Most big cargo ships are extremely polluting. They burn the heaviest and dirtiest kinds of bunker fuel and their engines are often old and emission control is almost non-existent. But this could change around the coastlines of the U.S. and Canada thanks to a new proposal that was just adopted in London by the International Maritime Organization. Read on for more details.
cargo ship photo

Photo: Flickr, CC
Emission Control Area
The plan calls for the creation of an "Emission Control Area" in the 200 miles of territorial waters around the U.S. and Canada.

The EPA writes:

On March 26, 2010, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) officially designated waters off North American coasts as an area in which stringent international emission standards will apply to ships. These standards will dramatically reduce air pollution from ships and deliver substantial air quality and public health benefits that extend hundreds of miles inland.

In 2020, EPA expects emissions from ships operating in the designated area to be reduced by 320,000 tons for NOx, 90,000 tons for PM2.5, and 920,000 tons for SOx, which is 23 percent, 74 percent, and 86 percent, respectively, below predicted levels in 2020 absent the ECA.

The way to achieve these reductions is through regulation of fuel quality. From the start date in 2012 until 2015, fuel used by all vessels operating in designated areas cannot exceed 1.0 percent sulfur (10,000 ppm). From Jan 1st, 2015, fuel used by ships operating in these areas cannot exceed 0.1 percent sulfur (1,000 ppm). Beginning in 2016, NOx aftertreatment requirements become applicable.


Effects of the Plan

Rick Kassel over at the NRDC writes:

And the health benefits will be enormous. EPA estimates this change will avoid as many as 14,000 premature deaths in 2020, and relieve acute respiratory symptoms in nearly 5 million people each year.

The finalized plan will cover all ocean-going vessels, including large tankers, container ships, and cruise vessels, whether U.S. or foreign-flagged. It goes into effect in 2015.

See also: "Just 15 of the world's biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world's 760m cars"

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