Ships’ NOx limit may be delayed

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) may delay the implementation of stricter limits for nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions for ships operating in emission control areas (ECA), possibly by five years.

The decision on 15 May by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) was taken despite the fact that an IMO correspondence group reported that there is no need for a delay as technologies needed to meet new NOx standards are available.

Agreed back in 2008, the Tier III NOx standard will impose a 75 per cent reduction in NOx emissions for new engines on ships operating in agreed NOx ECAs as from 2016. At present, this NOx limit has only been agreed for the North American ECA, while ECAs in Europe only restrict sulphur emissions.

The environmental groups Seas at Risk and Transport & Environment, both founding members of the IMO observer organisation, Clean Shipping Coalition, condemned moves to force a delay.

Antoine Kedzierski, T&E clean shipping officer, said: “Today’s decision to delay ship engine NOx standards is a shameful act by the IMO. Two years before the entry into force of the next emissions limit, the IMO punishes those who have chosen to invest in clean innovation in order to comply and rewards those who have cynically waited and lobbied for postponement. The call was led by Russia, but the lack of a common EU position is also to blame.”

John Maggs from Seas at Risks commented: “If left unregulated, shipping will soon become the biggest source of NOx emissions in Europe, exceeding all land-based emissions put together. Due to IMO’s sudden and abrupt change of direction, Europe should now act by itself and set clean engine standards at EU level.”

NOx emissions form a big part of the air pollution coming from international shipping. Any delay means that shipping NOx emissions most likely will to continue to increase for, at least, the next decade.
The IMO decision to delay the Tier III NOx standard in ECAs from 2016 to 2021 needs to be adopted by vote by the next MEPC meeting, expected to be held in March 2014.

Sources: Sustainable Shipping News and T&E press release, 15 May 2013.

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