Wednesday, June 30, 2010

World Shipping Pollution Being Tackled

MARPOL Rules to Ensure Cleaner Fuels are Used
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – When one gets past the claims and counterclaims of the pollution levels produced by comparative forms of shipping one gets down to the basic fact that in today’s climate every company needs to strive to reduce greenhouse gases and limit all forms of noxious substances they are responsible for (usually whilst protesting they are not the worst offenders). The effect has been for railways to point at shipping who in turn claim road freight is more polluting prompting hauliers to point to the skies.

What is clear to anyone with any knowledge on the matter is that some of the low grade fuel used in freighters and container ships, ferries etc. traditionally used in many parts of the world does produce horrifically and unnecessarily high levels of noxious emissions.

Now the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been addressing the reduction of greenhouse gases from ships, as part of their contribution to the worldwide efforts to stem climate change and global warming and they claim good progress has already been made on related technical and operational measures, with further work being undertaken on market-based measures.

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. It is anticipated that the 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 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 revisions allow 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. We have covered actions taken unilaterally by the US in the past and 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. Most major engine manufacturers already have the revisions in hand. 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.

The problem of pollution is invariably at its most serious in the poorer areas of the world, and so it is with shipping. Cheap fuel will always be available in these countries but it is to be hoped that the efforts made by the bulk of the shipping industry will have a dramatic effect on the amount of pollutants it is responsible for.

You can view a short video setting out the responsibilities of vessel operators HERE.