The revised Annex VI, which contains regulations to prevent air pollution from ships, of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) entered into force globally on 1 July 2010.
As from this date, the fuel sulphur limit for ships operating in designated Emission Control Areas (ECAs) is lowered from 1.50 per cent to 1.00 per cent. A further reduction to 0.10 per cent will take effect from 1 January 2015. The regulation allows for ships to use alternative methods to reduce emissions to an equivalent level.
The revised Annex VI allows for Emission Control Areas (ECAs) to be designated for sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter (PM), or nitrogen oxides (NOx), or all three types of emissions from ships, subject to a proposal from a party or parties to the Annex. Such proposals will be considered for adoption by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) if supported by a demonstrated need to prevent, reduce and control one or all three of those emissions from ships.
Two existing SOx-ECAs, namely the Baltic Sea and the North Sea (including the English Channel), are already listed in the revised Annex. A new North American ECA for SOx, PM and NOx 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.
As from 1 January 2012, the global fuel sulphur cap is reduced from the current 4.50 per cent to 3.50 per cent. This global limit is further lowered to 0.50 per cent from 1 January 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed not later than 2018.
Progressive reductions in NOx emissions from new-built marine engines are now also coming into force, with the most stringent controls on so-called Tier III engines. This emission standard will apply to new engines installed on ships constructed on or after 1 January 2016 when operating in NOx-ECAs.
The revision of MARPOL Annex VI was formally adopted by the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in October 2008. So far, it has been ratified by 59 countries, representing more than 84 per cent of the gross tonnage of the world's merchant shipping fleet.
Source: IMO press briefing, 30 June 2010.