US pushes for tighter shipping pollution standards

American regulators are planning to implement new emissions standards for large ocean going vessels and are proposing they be adopted globally under the aegis of the International Maritime Agency.

The standards put forward by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would require larger diesel engines – known in the shipping industry as Category 3 engines – to use low sulphur fuel and in many cases be retro-fitted to improve efficiency.

The result would be a steep drop in emissions of NOx and particulates.

“Diesel ships are a global economic workhorse,” said EPA administrator Stephen L Johnson.

“By advancing clean diesel technology, this economic workhorse can become an environmental workhorse. Working with the International Maritime Organization, EPA is reducing emissions from the shipping sector – making ports across the world harbours of cleaner air.”

As foreign trade grows and new emissions controls take effect on other transportation sources, emissions from these ships comprise an increasing share of the USA’s pollution inventory.

The proposals would see improvements made in three stages.

First, new Category 3 engines coming into service from 2011 would need to meet tighter standards for NOx emissions, resulting in a 15 to 25% cut in the gases.

The next phase, beginning in 2016, would see even tighter restrictions on new engines, requiring the use of high efficiency emission control technology – effectively a giant catalytic converter – which would see NOx emissions cut by 80% or more.

The final phase would apply to existing engines, setting new NOx limits which would result in a net reduction of around 20% to emissions from shipping.

All the standards would apply to ships using US ports and coastal waters.

Sam Bond

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