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IMO Adopts North American Emissions Control Area

Posted on March 26, 2010

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has accepted a proposal to designate waters off the North American coasts as an Emissions Control Area (ECA). Large ships that operate in ECAs now must use cleaner fuel and technology. The ECA was proposed in March 2009.

Large commercial vessels, such as oil tankers, cruise ships and container ships, make more than 57 000 calls to U.S. ports annually, said the EPA, and more than 30 of these ports are in metropolitan areas that do not meet federal air quality standards.

The EPA predicts that the ECA standards could reduce sulfur content in fuel by 98%, reducing particulate matter by 85% and NOx emissions by 80%. To achieve these reductions, sulfur standards will be phased in starting in 2012, to reach no more than 1000 parts per million by 2015. In addition, new ships must use emissions control technologies beginning in 2016.

Canada and France join the U.S. in this North American ECA. In developing the U.S. proposal, EPA joined with federal partners at the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, State, Transportation, and Commerce, among others. This is the first ECA adopted under amendments to an IMO treaty in 2008 that expanded both the ECA emissions standards and the approval criteria.

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