Emission control areas grow

MEPC Day 2: Canadian Arctic and Europe's Atlantic coast set to have sulphur oxide emissions limitation

The patchwork of emission control areas is set to grow as proposals for new regions in the Canadian Arctic and the North East Atlantic are discussed by regulators and an agreement reached finalizing details for Mediterranean Sea.

Emission control areas, or ECAs, are regions where there are tougher rules on the amount of sulphur oxides, particulate matter, and nitrous oxides that can be emitted into the atmosphere from ships. ECAs currently exist in North Europe and North America.

The proposal for a Northeast Atlantic ECA would link the Mediterranean ECA with those in North Europe (English Channel, North Sea, Baltic Sea), effectively covering the majority of Europe’s waters, including the UK and Ireland, while a Canadian Arctic ECA would extend from the northern limits of the North American ECA effectively encompasses the continent.

The additional European ECA would then mean a vessel sailing into the Mediterranean Sea form the Suez Canal and bound for a North European port, for example, would need to be compliant for that whole part of the voyage.

Proposed and existing SOx and NOx emission control areas. Image courtesy of Clean Arctic Alliance

Vessels in European waters already need to be compliant with the European sulphur in fuel directive which has similar sulphur in fuel limits.

Vessels operating in an sulphur ECA need to use a fuel with a sulphur content of less than 0.1%, or use equivalent compliance such as an exhaust gas cleaning system while using fuel oils, though for vessels in the Arctic.

Canadian statistics have shown that traffic in country’s far north has more than doubled from 2010  to 2019, based on fuel consumption data.

A ban on fuel oil in the far north has already been agreed, but because there is uncertainty how this will be complied with regarding fuels, Canada has now put forward the ECA proposal with a view for it to be in place by 2025.

Other emission control areas are also being proposed, with mention of a Norwegian coast ECA being proposed during the plenary meeting of the IMO’s MEPC meeting. Other ECA regions have also been talked about previously, not least the extension of one in China as well as Japan and some areas of Australia.

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