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EPA’s Gift to Maritime Industry: Stringent Emission Regs

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday December 24th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Just in time for holiday gift-giving season the Environmental Protection Agency wrapped-up final regulations that slap stringent emission control standards on ocean vessels and marine diesel engines.

And this is one gift the maritime industry can’t return or exchange.

The EPA this week finalized a rule it proposed in July that sets stringent engine and fuel standards for large U.S. freighters, tankers, container vessels and passenger ships.

The rule also harmonizes the U.S. with international standards for all ships.

Vessel diesel emissions are a major source of pollution in port areas, and stronger standards will help make large ships “cleaner and more efficient, and protect millions of Americans from harmful diesel emissions,” says EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

“Port communities have identified diesel emissions as one of the greatest health threats facing their people – especially their children,” she continued. “These new rules mark a step forward in cutting dangerous pollution in the air we breathe and reducing the harm to our health, our environment, and our economy.”

Air pollution from large ships, such as oil tankers and cargo ships, is expected to grow rapidly as port traffic increases, according to the agency. By 2030, the EPA’s domestic and international strategy is expected to reduce annual emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from large marine diesel engines by about 1.2 million tons and particulate matter (PM) emissions by about 143,000 tons.

“When fully implemented, this coordinated effort will reduce NOX emissions from ships by 80 percent, and PM emissions by 85 percent, compared to current emissions,” the agency says.

In addition the emission reductions as a result of the rules “will yield significant health and welfare benefits that span beyond U.S. ports and along our coasts, reaching inland areas.”

EPA estimates that in 2030, this effort will prevent between 12,000 and 31,000 premature deaths and 1.4 million workdays lost. The estimated annual health benefits in 2030 as a result of reduced air pollution are valued at between $110 and $270 billion, which is up to nearly 90 times the projected cost of $3.1 billion to achieve those results.

The rule was formulated under the authority of the Clean Air Act and complements a key piece of the agency’s strategy to designate an emissions control area (ECA) for thousands of miles of U.S. and Canadian coasts.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nations agency, will vote in March on the adoption of the joint U.S.-Canada ECA, which would result in stringent standards for large foreign-flagged and domestic ships operating within the designated area.

Technically speaking, the final emission standards apply to compression-ignition marine engines manufactured on or after January 1, 2004, and marine vessels manufactured on or after January 1, 2004, that include a compression-ignition marine engine.

The final engine standards are equivalent to those adopted in the amendments to Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, a treaty that’s commonly called MARPOL.

The emission standards will apply in two stages: near-term standards for newly-built engines will apply beginning in 2011, and long-term standards requiring an 80 percent reduction in nitrogen dioxides (NOx) will begin in 2016.

Nothing about this is a surprise: MARPOL was adopted in 1997 and did not enter into force until 2005. The maritime industry knew this day would come eventually but has lived in denial and skirted around the edges of comprehensive emissions reductions for too long. Welcome aboard.


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