New Fuel Rules for Ships in 2020

Shipping is a necessary part of today’s economy. Pollution from shipping can cause serious damage to the seaborne ecosystem, as well as maritime workers onboard these vessels. In light of this, the shipping industry needs to take adequate precautions to avoid the damage. Several nations have entered into agreements to control and reduce pollution.

After adopting international agreements to control pollution, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) was established, which covers pollution from operational and accidental causes by ships. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) handles the regulation of marine pollution from ships, as well as maritime safety. Each participating nation has enacted laws and regulations to enforce the requirements. In the U.S., the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships was amended in 2008 under the Maritime Pollution Prevention Act of 2008 to enforce MARPOL requirements. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the Environmental Protection Agency are responsible for enforcing MARPOL.

IMO Caps on Pollutants

Global caps on nitrous and sulfur oxides in marine fuel have been set to control marine pollutants. In addition, emission control areas have been designated where concentrations of these toxins in fuel are further limited. The two emission control areas for the U.S. cover coastal areas around the U.S. and Canada, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The emission control areas extend about 200 nautical miles from the coast. Emission control area limits apply to all ships operating in the area, regardless of the country of origin. As of January 1, 2015, the U.S. set a cap for sulfur content at 0.1 percent.

Reducing Toxic Sulfur Contamination

Sulfur oxides are found in ships’ exhaust gas and pollute both the air and sea. The concentration of sulfur oxides in fuel can vary based on the source of raw material used to make the fuel and how it is processed. It is also possible to remove sulfur oxides from the exhaust gas before it is released into the environment using scrubbers, which pose additional risks. As of January 1, 2020, the global sulfur cap was reduced from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent. All commercial ships operating in the U.S. must not only meet this cap, but when traveling in its emission control areas, must meet the 0.1 percent cap in effect since 2015.

How to Comply

Regulated ship operators have four options to comply with the new fuel requirements:

  • Use fuel that complies with the maximum sulfur caps
  • Obtain a Fuel Oil Non-Availability Report documenting lack of availability of compliant fuel and file it with the USCG Captain of the Port
  • Use a scrubber on fuel with 3.5 percent or less sulfur content
  • Use an IMO acceptable alternative fuel source, such as biofuel, battery power, or wind power

Incompliance and failure to maintain onboard records can result in criminal prosecution, as well as risks to maritime workers. When emitted into the air, exposure to sulfur oxides can cause respiratory symptoms, lung disease, and premature death. The reduction in sulfur oxide emissions can reduce asthma, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer.

Cape May Maritime Injury Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Advocate for Injured Maritime Workers

If you need legal representation regarding a maritime-related injury or other matter, contact an experienced Cape May maritime injury lawyer at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. today. For a free consultation, call us at 888-999-1962 or complete an online form. Located in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Wildwood and Cape May.