EPA rule on air emissions from marine diesels advances US role in MARPOL Annex VI

On 31 July 2003, The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule governing air emissions from large marine diesel engines. The matter has been closely watched for the past two years as an indicator of the US Government’s commitment to the IMO process. The new rule endorses US participation in international efforts to determine effective, practical means to reduce air pollution caused by vessels. It also refrains from unilateral regulation of non-US-flag vessels that call in the United States. Finally, while imposing national standards on US-flag vessels, the EPA state its intent to make these standards equivalent to those contained in MARPOL Annex VI.

INTERTANKO and other industry groups, most notably the World Shipping Council, the American Petroleum Institute, the Chamber of Shipping of America, and the Transportation Institute, held many meetings with US officials over the course of the 2001-2002 to extract the proposed Annex VI from EPA and to explain the value of its entry into force to the EPA, the US Departments of State and Transportation, and, ultimately, to the environmental, budget, and foreign policy advisors of the President. At the same time, a coalition of industry groups that included INTERTANKO participated in rulemaking proceedings conducted by the EPA. Our objective was to ensure that domestic rules promulgated by the EPA did not in any way work at cross-purposes with the content or purpose of Annex VI. INTERTANKO submitted its own comments and participated in the drafting of the coalition comments. Finally, INTERTANKO has been aggressive in its efforts to encourage other nations to ratify Annex VI in order to bring the convention into force.

The final EPA rule attempts to conform US standards for release of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) to Annex VI. It does not impose separate emission standards for Particulate Matter (PM). The EPA expressly referred to Annex VI mechanisms for addressing sulphur emissions (SOx) and indicates that Sox issues will be considered separately. The rule expresses EPA’s view that stricter NOx standards must be considered, but also states that this so-called “Tier 2” review will not be undertaken until early 2007, sufficient time being allowed for progress within the IMO framework on this issue. Although the EPA had requested comment on the application of the standards to foreign vessels, the final rule accepts the industry’s legal analysis that the US Clean Air Act does not permit the extension of the EPA regulation to vessels or engines only episodically present in the United States.

The rule is a victory for INTERTANKO’S efforts to steer national governments towards international technical solutions to complex environmental issues. Virtually all of the industry concerns raised were addressed positively by the rulemaking.

A more detailed report can be downloaded from INTERTANKO’s web site.

Contacts: Dragos Rauta (703 841 9300) or

Jonathan Benner (202 274 2880)