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December 22, 2009

EPA finalizes emissions regulations for Category 3 engines

Great Lakes and Seaway operators have been cut a few breaks in final emission standards announced by the EPA on December 18, 2009.

The final emission standards for new marine diesel engines with per-cylinder displacement at or above 30 liters (Category 3 engines) installed on U.S.-flagged vessels are equivalent to those adopted in the amendments to Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL).

The emission standards apply in two stages: near-term standards for newly-built engines will apply beginning in 2011, and long-term standards requiring an 80 percent reduction in nitrogen dioxides (NOx) will begin in 2016.

EPA is adopting changes to the diesel fuel program to allow for the production and sale of diesel fuel with up to 1,000 ppm sulfur for use in Category 3 marine vessels. The regulations generally forbid production and sale of fuels with more than 1,000 ppm sulfur for use in most U.S. waters, unless operators achieve equivalent emission reductions in other ways.

EPA is also adopting provisions to apply some emission and fuel standards to foreign-flagged and in-use vessels that are covered by MARPOL Annex VI.

The final rule provides more flexibility in complying with the fuel sulfur requirements than proposed. First, vessels may now use other methods to achieve sulfur dioxide emissions reductions equivalent to those obtained by the use of lower sulfur fuel.

Second, a fuel availability relief provision has been added for use only by vessels with diesel engines operating on the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway. This provision allows operators to buy the lowest sulfur marine residual fuel available if fuel that meets the near-term 1.0 percent (10,000 ppm) fuel sulfur standard is not available. EPA says this provision preserves the greatest benefits of the rulemaking, while avoiding undue consequences for a narrow segment of the regulated industry.

Furthermore, EPA says it is finalizing an economic hardship relief provision for vessels with diesel engines operating on the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway. This option provides temporary relief from the 2015 ECA-level fuel sulfur standards upon demonstration that the burden of compliance costs would cause serious economic hardship.

Finally, reflecting technical challenges to the use of lower sulfur fuels in steamships, a corresponding potential for reduced safety and a clear directive from the Congress, EPA is excluding from this final action the application of the ECA-level fuel sulfur standards in MARPOL Annex VI to existing steamships operating on the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Seaway.


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