EPA Collaboration on International Air Pollution Standards for Marine Vessels
EPA participates on the U.S. delegation to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The IMO is the United Nations agency concerned with maritime safety and security and the prevention of marine pollution from ships. The result was global emission standards of the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (a treaty called "MARPOL").
In October 2008, member states of the IMO adopted new international standards for marine diesel engines and their fuels that applied globally beginning on July 1, 2010. They established more stringent emission requirements for ships that operate in designated coastal areas where air quality problems are acute, called Emission Control Areas (ECAs). These global and geographic standards have the potential to significantly reduce air pollution from ships, and provide important benefits to U.S. national air quality.
- 2008 Amendments to Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)
The United States regularly submits position papers to IMO committees such as the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), in support of advances in measures to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from ships. Committees of the IMO meet periodically to consider and adopt revisions to the various annexes of MARPOL and related treaties.
In 2010, EPA created a regulatory program to implement Annex VI in the United States, including engine and fuel sulfur limits.
The United States has obtained designation for the North American ECA and the U.S. Caribbean ECA.
On March 26, 2010, the IMO officially designated waters off North American coasts as an area in which stringent international emission standards will apply to ships. The first-phase fuel sulfur standard began in 2012, the second phase began in 2015, and stringent NOx engine standards began in 2016.
On July 15, 2011, the IMO officially designated waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as an area in which stringent international emission standards will apply to ships. The first-phase fuel sulfur standard began in 2014, the second phase began in 2015, and stringent NOx engine standards began in 2016.
On April 4, 2014, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO, took action to protect the environmental benefits of the North American and U.S. Caribbean ECAs by excluding them from an amendment to MARPOL Annex VI that will otherwise postpone the international Tier III NOx standards for marine diesel engines.
These technology-forcing engine standards continue to apply to vessels operating in the ECAs adjacent to the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands for new ships constructed as of 2016, as originally specified in the 2008 amendments to MARPOL Annex VI. For future NOx ECAs, the standards will apply to engines installed on ships constructed on or after the date of adoption of such an emission control area, or a later date as determined by the country applying for the NOx ECA designation.
- Designation of the North American ECA for marine vessels
- Designation of the U.S. Caribbean ECA for marine vessels
- Guidance documents related to ECAs for marine vessels
- Reports related to ECAs for marine vessels