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Thursday, October 18, 2018


In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued for public comment on 2 May 2002, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed rules to govern air emissions from large (Category 3) marine diesel engines that now power a substantial portion of the world’s international merchant fleet. The proposal is significant not only because it addresses the important issue of controlling marine air emissions in the United States, but also it expresses U.S. Administration support for international curbs on vessel-source air emissions.

Dr. Peter Swift, Managing Director of INTERTANKO, praised the EPA and the United States for leadership on this issue: “Air emissions from large marine diesels used aboard ocean-going vessels, including tankers, must be made subject to uniform international standards.  The mobility of the vessels and the variations in fuel quality and refining standards around the world mean that unilateral national efforts to regulate small segments of the international fleet are futile and will only delay progress on air quality improvements that will benefit the global ecology.  By announcing the intention of the United States government to seek Senate ratification of Annex VI of the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), EPA has taken a major step in the direction of preserving a U.S. role in promoting global air quality improvements.”

The EPA proposed rule, while seeking comment on emissions standards for U.S.-flag vessels, also conforms those standards to limits on oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in MARPOL Annex VI with some notable departures.  That treaty was agreed in 1997 by the world’s major maritime nations and is now awaiting ratification by at least 15 nations controlling over 50 per cent of the world’s shipping tonnage.  Dr. Swift observed that “progress toward ratification of Annex VI has been inexcusably slow, although it now appears that further  countries of the European Union and other major flag states are moving towards approval of the instrument.  Lack of action from the United States has no doubt had a dampening effect on the enthusiasm of other maritime nations.  By indicating that the U.S. will now move forward to secure Senate ratification, the EPA gives those of us who have been advocating an international structure for addressing marine air quality issues confidence that Annex VI will come into force within the year.”

While certain other environmental organizations have not shared INTERTANKO’s enthusiasm for Annex VI, arguing that its limits on NOx and sulphur oxides (SOx) have been overtaken by new technologies, Dr. Swift stated that “no doubt Annex VI will be a document that evolves over time to reflect technical progress in the control of marine air emissions.  However, without the international framework that the convention provides, no progress can be made.  The EPA’s clear indication of U.S. Administration support for Annex VI will help the Association’s efforts to reach the ratification thresholds and will provide in the short term a forum for future improvements in air quality standards.”

Although United Nations data show that marine source air pollution is a small element of overall air emissions (EPA notes that Category 3 marine diesels contribute between 1 and 2 per cent of the total U.S. NOx output), INTERTANKO’s Council has stressed the need for all parties to pursue vigorously measures that would place international limits on emissions from ships and also has encouraged all the world’s major maritime nations to accelerate the process of formal ratification of Annex VI.

The international shipping industry and their engine suppliers already comply  on a voluntary basis with the MARPOL  Annex VI NOx requirements for new vessels.  INTERTANKO's Council has also recommended that Members of the Association adopt an operational procedure (the VOCON Operational Procedure) developed by INTERTANKO that would significantly reduce vapour emissions from tankers' cargo tanks during transportation.  This policy, once implemented, also will contribute to global air quality improvement. 

The EPA proposed rule is voluminous (139 pages) and addresses a number of complex technical issues.  INTERTANKO’s Safety, Technical and Environmental Committee (ISTEC), its Bunker Sub-Committee together with the INTERTANKO Secretariat will review the proposal and prepare comments to meet the EPA’s 16 July 2002 public comment deadline.


For further information, please contact:

Peter Swift, INTERTANKO’s Managing Director
Phone:  +44 20 7623 4311

Dragos Rauta, INTERTANKO’s Technical Director and US Representative:
Phone:  + 1 703 373 2269