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Web alert: North America MARPOL Annex VI detentions on the rise

03 January 2014

With the recent detentions of ships by the US Coast Guard (USCG) found in violation of MARPOL Annex VI, vessels are facing an increased enforcement of this relatively new addition to MARPOL. Annex VI limits the main air pollutants found in ships exhaust gases, represented by sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrous oxides (NOx) and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances. Annex VI also stipulates regulation for incineration and the emissions of volatile organic compounds from tankers. Since its entry into force on 19 May 2005 Annex VI has been amended by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to strengthen the emission limits in response to technological improvements which have enabled such changes.

For vessels visiting ports in North America and Canada the implications of such developments are clear. Vessels navigating within 200 nautical miles of the coast in an area now designated as the “North American Emission Control Area” (ECA) are required to utilize bunkers with a sulphur content of less than 1% or risk detention, as in the case of ‘The Lady Maria Luisa’. USCG sources confirmed that The Lady Maria Luisa was detained in Baltimore on the 9th October this year after an investigation discovered that the vessel was using bunkers which did not conform to proscribed ECA limits for sulphur content. To avoid detention ship owners/operators need to ensure that their vessels trading within the limits of the North American ECA are supplied with bunkers which meet the appropriate standards for sulphur content and it should be noted that the present sulphur threshold of 1% will be further reduced in 2015.