Impact of North American Emission Control Area (ECA) on the U.S and the Shipping Industry

From 1st August 2012 onwards  the third Emission Control Area came into force. The North American Emission Control Area is applicable for ships trading in areas off the Coasts of Canada, The United States and French majorities of Saint – Pierre and Miquelon, including areas around Hawaii Islands.

Under the International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL – Annex VI), with effect from 1st August 2012, all ships calling US ports are required to change over to low sulphur fuel oil (LSFO) for general steaming and usage in US waters, under co-ordinates prescribed in Annex VI of the new MARPOL.

However, there is no need to change over to marine gas oil (MGO) for emission control at berth like that suggested by EU directive. The North America ECA covers waters adjacent to the Pacific coast, Atlantic/Gulf coast and eight Hawaiian Islands. It extends up to 200 miles from the coast of United States, Canada and the French territories.

Emission Control Area

The fourth ECA which is the United States Caribbean Sea ECA and covers waters adjacent to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands, was designated under the MARPOL amendments of July 2011 and will be enforced in Jan.2013 with new ECA to be effective from Jan 2014.

MARPOL comprises of two methods for emission control. The first one deals with control of emission from all ships due to fuel sulfur content and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from the engines, while the second one specifies areas for emission control with more strict limits on Sulfur content of fuel and nitrogen oxide emissions.

For ships operating, trading or transiting The North American Emission Control Area, the sulfur content of fuel is required to be not more than 1.0% m/m (expressed in terms of % m/m – that is, by weight) or 10000 ppm, and which will be further reduced to 0.1% m/m or 1000 ppm by 1st January 2015.

Most of the ships have storage capacity to store and use two or more different types of fuel, but for complying with 2015 requirements, some vessels will need to be modified to store the distillate fuel.  Some ship owners might also opt to control the sulfur content in their ships’ exhaust by fitting scrubbers or other exhaust gas cleaning devices.

There was  a general sentiment in the shipping market  that the designation of North American ECA will encourage shipping companies to divert shipments from U.S. ports to nearby ports, which are not designated as ECA. However ECA designation did not affect this underlying reason for preferring one port over the other as lot of other factors such as facilities, land based multi-modal means of transport and their geographic location were in favor of U.S. Ports. This rule is thus expected to increase the operating cost for a ship by about 3 percent. However Canada has delayed its implementation and is expected to follow by November 2012.

The favorable impact of the ECA will be reduction of air pollution (emission control) from ships with cleaner air and downsize of  health expenses being incurred even miles inland in the US and Canada. The core ideology of the North American ECA role played by EPA of the US has been to reduce air pollution from ships by keeping a check on the emission control. The EPA claims that implementation of North American ECA will improve air quality significantly in Grand Canyon National Park and the Great Smoky mountains. Adding up other benefits it is said that by 2020 it will prevent 5,500 to 14000 premature deaths and 49, 00,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms, which surely saves huge spending on health care benefits.

Thus North American ECA implementation proves to be a win-win situation for the US Health Care Department. The North American EPA will ease off the costs of health care and welfare in US by keeping a check on emission control from ships and will also prevent taking a toll on budgets of ship owners and operators.


About Author

Abhishek Bhanawat is a chief officer who has worked on various types of tankers. He specializes in Crude Oil and Product Tankers. He is extremely passionate about his work and loves to sail. An avid reader since childhood days, he likes to write about his experiences in free time. He loves to share his views and opinions regarding his maritime profession. He also likes to teach and always supports his juniors who are at the sea through mails and over phone.

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