Regulations and Guidelines
The International Maritime Organization – MARPOL Annex VI
IMO’s 1997 protocol to amend MARPOL 73/78 added Annex VI – Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships. This entered into force on 19 May 2005. Regulation 14 included a 1.50% limit on the sulphur content of fuel to be used in a SOx Emission Control Area (SECA). Alternatively the use of an approved Exhaust Gas Cleaning System to reduce the total emissions from the ship to an equivalent level of 6g SOx /kW h was permitted.
Nation states that have ratified MARPOL Annex VI are listed at the IMO website here.
On 1st August 2006 the Baltic Sea became the first fully implemented SECA. This was approximately 3 months later than the date under Annex VI as it was necessary to allow European Union member states time to transpose the requirements into national law. One year later, on 11 August 2007 the North Sea and English Channel became the second SECA under European Commission Directive 2005/33. (This was approximately 3 months earlier than under Annex VI, which set a date of 21 November 2006 for the SECA to enter into force followed by an exemption period of 12 months).
Almost immediately after Annex VI came into force in 2005, IMO began a review with the “aim of significantly strengthening the emissions limits in light of technological improvements and implementation experience”. This work was completed and adopted by IMO in 2008 and the revised Annex VI with associated NOx Technical Code entered into force in July 2010.
A key revision was the change from SOx Emission Control Area to Emission Control Area (ECA), which is defined as an ” area where the adoption of special mandatory measures for emissions from ships is required to prevent, reduce and control air pollution from NOx or SOx and particulate matter or all three types of emissions and their attendant adverse impact on human health and the environment”.
As a result SOx and related PM emissions were further reduced in ECAs by reducing fuel sulphur from 1.00% (introduced in July 2010) to 0.10% on 1st January 2015.
Outside of ECAs, the global limit of 4.50% sulphur-in-fuel was reduced to 3.50% at the beginning of 2012, and will be further reduced to 0.50% in 2020 following a review by IMO, which determined that fuel would be available to enable implementation of the standard.
In March 2010 the sixtieth session of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 60) adopted a proposal from the USA and Canada for an ECA extending 200 nautical miles from both east and west coasts and around the islands of Hawaii.
Unlike the Baltic and North Sea, which will remain SOx Emission Control Areas for the time being, the North American ECA is for SOx, particulate matter and NOx. It became fully implemented in August 2012. A similar proposal for an ECA around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands was submitted by the USA for discussion at MEPC 61 in September 2010. The proposal was adopted at MEPC 62 in July 2011 and fully implemented in January 2014.
MARPOL Annex VI Emission Control Areas
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