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Under regulations, containerships, tankers, cruise ships and bulk carriers must limit emissions from their category-three diesel engines.

Recent legislative developments have opened the door for tighter control of oceangoing vessel exhaust emissions within United States waters — the signing of the Maritime Pollution Protection Act of 2008 by President Bush and a California Air Resources Board (CARB) vote of approval for new emission regulation of oceangoing ships along the state’s coastline.

With the president’s signature on the Maritime Pollution Protection Act of 2008, the path is now cleared for U.S. ratification of the international treaty regulating emissions from large dieselpowered, oceangoing vessels known as MARPOL Annex VI. Under MARPOL Annex VI, containerships, tankers, cruise ships and bulk carriers must limit NOx emissions from their category-three diesel engines. It also sets a cap on the sulfur content of the fuel they burn and includes a program for designating areas where more stringent fuel controls apply, such as near coastlines that have more severe air-quality concerns.

The U.S. Senate gave its formal advice and consent to Annex VI in 2006. Now, the final step of the ratification process is for the president to deliver a letter — known as diplomatic instrument of ratification — to the International Maritime Organization(IMO). The U.S. becomes a party three months later. MARPOL Annex VI entered into force beginning in May of 2005 — ships have met most provisions since 2000. While the current Tier I IMO requirements for the most part are easily attainable, IMO members have reached agreement on more stringent Tier II and Tier III regulations. These MARPOL Annex VI legislative amendments are expected to be finalized in October.

MARPOL Annex VI entered into force beginning in May of 2005 — ships have met most provisions since 2000. While the current Tier I IMO requirements for the most part are easily attainable, IMO members have reached agreement on more stringent Tier II and Tier III regulations. These MARPOL Annex VI legislative amendments are expected to be finalized in October.

At that time, the parties to MARPOL will work to strengthen NOx and SO2 standards and the sulfur requirements in fuel. The amendments under review are consistent with the stringent and comprehensive proposal put forward by the U.S. Government. Dovetailing the U.S. federal government announcement, the CARB-proposed regulation requires oceangoing vessels within 24 nautical miles of California’s coastline to use lower-sulfur marine distillates in their main and auxiliary engines and auxiliary boilers, rather than heavy fuel oil. An earlier California rule requiring low sulfur fuel in ships’ auxiliary engines was struck down by a court in response to a legal challenge by the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA).

According to CARB, about 2000 oceangoing vessels visiting California ports annually are subject to this restriction. Both U.S. and foreign-flagged vessels are subject to the regulation that will be implemented in two steps. Ocean vessel main engines, as well as auxiliary engines and boilers will have to switch to either marine gas oil (MGO), typically averaging 0.3% (wt) sulfur, capped at a maximum 1.5% (wt) sulfur or marine diesel oil (MDO) of maximum 0.5% (wt) sulfur. For auxiliary engines, Phase 1 will begin on the effective date of the regulation (normally 30 days after approval by the Office of Administrative Law). For main propulsion engines and auxiliary boilers, Phase 1 will begin July 1, 2009.

From January 1, 2012, ocean vessels must switch to a MGO or MDO fuel of maximum 0.1% sulfur for auxiliary and main engines and auxiliary boilers. The federal legislation authorizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to petition the IMO to designate the United States as a NOx and SOx “emission control area” (ECA). This would trigger a Tier III NOx limit(3.4 g/kWh) effective 2016, and a 0.1% sulfur limit starting in 2015 for ships near U.S. coasts.

While the 0.1% sulfur limit under the California regulation and under the MARPOL Annex VI ECA requirements is the same, the California rule becomes effective in 2012, three years earlier than the IMO standards. Using the cleaner fuels will result in immediate and significantreductions in the emissions from oceangoing vessels, according to CARB. In 2009, it is said that about 75% of the diesel particulate matter (DPM), over 80% of the sulfur oxides and 6% of the nitrogen oxides will be eliminated. In 2012, reductions of DPM will be 15 tons daily — an 83% reduction compared to uncontrolled emissions. Sulfur oxides will be reduced by 140 tons daily, a 95% reduction, and nitrogen oxides will be reduced by 11 tons per day, a 6% reduction.

As it stands, enforcement of the proposed regulation will be achieved through random inspections of records and fuel sampling and testing. To the extent feasible, CARB staff will coordinate vessel inspections with inspections conducted by other state agencies such as the California State Lands Commission. During vessel inspections, records will be reviewed to determine when vessels traveled within “Regulated California Waters” and the fuels used during this time. Records on the quantity of fuel purchased, the fuel type, and the sulfur content of the fuel will be reviewed to determine compliance. Fuel samples will be analyzed to ensure that they meet the ISO specifications for the fuel type and do not exceed the sulfur content limits under ISO or the proposed regulation, whichever is lower.

Penalties for noncompliance of any clean-air regulation are stipulated in California’s Health and Safety Code, and this weighs various aspects of found infractions. Therefore, specifics of the infraction and aspects of the developing case determine the penalties to be paid, according to CARB. The proposal contains a “noncompliance fee option” to address the limited situations where a vessel operator may not be able to comply with the proposed regulation for reasons beyond their reasonable control, or it may be impractical to comply. The vessel owners or operators would need to notify the executive officer that they will not meet the requirements of the regulation prior to entering the 24 nautical mile zone boundary.

The fees under this program are designed to ensure that participants will not receive an economic advantage over vessel operators that directly comply with the proposed regulation. The fee schedule is graduated such that later visits would result in increasing fee amounts.

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