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Marine Fuel, Exhaust, and Energy Regulation Compendium


EPA and the IMO have been tightening marine vessel emission standards since 1999 for all marine engine categories. Early regulations focused on standards that are implemented at the time the vessel is constructed and only affect U.S.-flagged ships. Recently, Emission Control Area (ECA) rules have been developed that require all vessels traveling through the North America ECA (NA-ECA) to comply with the IMO’s international schedule of emission and fuel standards.

The NA-ECA includes waters within 200 nautical miles of the coast for most of the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. EPA implemented this regulatory program under Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships. The program has taken the following actions:

• In 2012, the NA ECA imposed a limit on fuel sulfur at 10,000 ppm.

• In 2015, the NA ECA further reduced the limit on fuel sulfur to 1,000 ppm.

• For vessels with keel-laying on or after January 1, 2016, NOx standards go into effect and require application of control devices that that will reduce NOx emission by 85 percent while operating in designated ECAs.

The ECA sulfur rule allows ship owners to either use fuels that are compliant with the sulfur concentration requirement or continue to use high-sulfur fuels in conjunction with scrubbers that provide an equivalent reduction in sulfur emissions. The extent to which vessels will switch to lower-sulfur fuels or use scrubbers is uncertain. In addition, Annex VI lowers the global limit on marine fuel sulfur content in 2020 to 5,000 ppm.

Mexico is currently developing a similar program for vessels that transit a proposed Mexican Emission Control Area. Additional International Maritime Organization (IMO) backed ECAs are being considered for waters near Japan, off the coast of Norway, and in the Mediterranean Sea. China has moved forward with its own ECA-like requirement for fuel sulfur limits for vessels at ports (0.5% or less sulfur) in several port areas, with plans to have their program aligned with IMO ECA standards by 2019.[TMS1] Australia has imposed fuel sulfur limits (0.1% or less sulfur) in Sydney Harbor for cruise ships at berth. Within the United States, the State of California has adopted an “Ocean-going Vessel Fuel Rule” which places similar limits as Annex VI on sulfur content but further restricts fuel to marine distillate categories of marine gas oil (MGO) or marine diesel oil (MDO), resulting in a more stringent standard but one also inconsistent with IMO standards.

Though ECA rules apply to all vessels, smaller ships equipped with Category 1 and Category 2 diesel engines are required to comply with non-road standards for engines that have been manufactured from 1996 to 2018 and vary by regulated pollutant depending upon cylinder displacement, power, and engine speed. Nonroad fuels also have significantly lower sulfur concentrations (500 ppm) than required in the ECA regulations (1,000 ppm).

In addition, the IMO has put forth requirements focused on improving vessel efficiency, which reduces fuel use (and resulting greenhouse gases and other emissions).

Voluntary programs are also being used by ports to reduce emissions, these include:

· Expansion of reduced speed zones

· Use of ultra-low sulfur fuels for auxiliary engines

· Programs to promote alternative fuels including LNG

· Efforts to encourage use of shore power

· Repowering or replacing older harbor craft

· Use of advance marine emission control systems

· Scrappage of older high emitting drayage trucks

· Drayage truck/gate scheduling systems

· Dockside efficiency improvements

· Replacing diesel cargo handling equipment with natural gas powered equipment

· Electrification of cargo handling equipment

· Replacement of diesel-powered gantry cranes with electric cranes equipped with regenerative power

· Encouraging intermodal shift from onroad to rail

· Use of LNG or CNG powered Locomotives

Knowledge of current and pending international, regional, or national regulatory instruments is necessary to accurately quantify anticipated emission levels within a port or region, or to estimate benefits associated with the implementation of more-stringent local standards or voluntary programs.


A compilation of current and pending regulations and voluntary programs compiled by region could be a useful tool to help stakeholders maintain awareness of important regulations and better understand the availability and utility of non-regulatory tools. It is also important to be informed of pending regulations, to anticipate required changes in vessel operations or development of new infrastructure.


Careful understanding of new marine fuels and exhaust regulations at local, state, regional, national, and global levels is important to ensure alignment of standards and practices.

Knowledge of lessons learned and best practices from voluntary programs can be particularly useful to appreciate the full range of control strategies available to port authorities as well as state and federal regulatory agencies.


The following tasks are not comprehensive. They are intended as a guide to what might be necessary to successfully complete the research:

Phase 1

· Compile and review available marine vessel fuel and engine exhaust regulations. The collected data should include:

o Date of promulgation

o Implementing agency

o Applicability requirements

o Geographic extent of rule

o Regulated pollutant and standard

o Implementation schedule

o Anticipated costs and air quality benefits

· Develop a database to store and retrieve the compiled regulatory data

· Provide a summary of Phase 1 activities, including data structure of the air quality regulation database.

Phase 2

-Compile and review available voluntary marine vessel programs that impact air quality. The collected data should include:

o Date program was implemented

o Applicability requirements for participation or to receive incentive funding

o Geographic extent of the voluntary program

o Pollutants targeted by the voluntary program

o Anticipated costs and air quality benefits

· Develop a database to store and retrieve the compiled voluntary program data

· Provide a summary of Phase 2 activities, including data structure of the voluntary air quality program database.

Phase 3

·Prepare implementation manual and PowerPoint presentation for dissemination to potential users


Agencies such as the EPA may find this tool compliments their regulatory programs and could lead the implementation of this project in conjunction with TRB, AASHTO, trade organizations such as American Association of Port Authorities and vessel operator trade groups.


Careful understanding of new marine fuels and exhaust regulations at local, state, regional, national, and global levels is important to ensure alignment of standards and practices.

Sponsoring Committee:AW030, Marine Environment
Research Period:6 - 12 months
Research Priority:Medium
RNS Developer:Richard Billings, Thomas Jelenic, Timothy Sturtz, Christina Wolfe
Source Info:U.S. EPA, IMO, State and Local agency, port authorities
Date Posted:11/17/2017
Date Modified:12/08/2017
Index Terms:Energy, Environmental policy, Fuels, Ships, Regulations, Ports, Exhaust gases,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Marine Transportation
Freight Transportation
Transportation (General)

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