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California ARB Adopts Low-Sulfur Fuel Rules for Ocean-Going Vessels; US Adopts MARPOL Act

Potential cancer risk resulting from exposure to diesel PM from ocean-going vessels (OGV), 2005 baseline. Note the hot spot around the Southern California ports. Click to enlarge.

The California Air Resources Board adopted a regulation that requires ocean-going vessels (OGV) within 24 nautical miles of California’s coastline to use lower-sulfur marine distillates in their main and auxiliary engines and auxiliary boilers, rather than the dirtier heavy-fuel oil called bunker fuel. (Earlier post.) About 2,000 ocean-going vessels visiting California ports annually are subject to this restriction.

Separately and earlier in the week, US President George Bush signed into law the Maritime Pollution Protection Act of 2008, which clears the way for US ratification of the international treaty regulating emissions—MARPOL Annex VI—from diesel-powered OGVs.

The proposed California regulation requiring ships to use more refined fuel with lower sulfur content would be implemented in two steps. In 2009, MGO (marine gasoil) would have a sulfur limit of 1.5% (15,000 ppm), while MDO (marine diesel oil) would have a limit of 0.5% (5,000 ppm). In 2012, the limits for both fuels drops to 0.1% (1,000 ppm). Both US-flagged and foreign-flagged vessels are subject to the regulation which is the most stringent and comprehensive requirement for marine fuel-use in the world.

In 2009 about 75% percent of current levels of diesel PM, more than 80% of the sulfur oxides and 6% of the nitrogen oxides will be eliminated. In 2012, when the very low sulfur fuel requirement is implemented, reductions of diesel particulate matter will be 15 tons daily, an 83% reduction compared to uncontrolled emissions. Sulfur oxides will be reduced by 140 tons daily, a 95% reduction and nitrogen oxides will be reduced by 11 tons per day, a 6% reduction.

Diesel exhaust contains more than 40 known cancer-causing compounds. Currently in California, diesel PM emissions from ocean-going vessels expose more than twenty-seven million people or 80% of California's total population, to cancer risk levels at or above 10 chances in a million.

With the new ruling, an estimated 3,600 premature deaths between 2009 and 2015 will be avoided, and the cancer risk associated with the emissions from these vessels would be reduced by more than 80%. In addition, the measure will aid the South Coast Air Quality Management District meet its federal clean air requirements for fine particulate matter by 2014 and move California closer to its goal of reducing diesel particulate matter 85% by 2020.

This fall the ARB will consider further measures to reduce emissions from heavy-duty diesel trucks.

The new ARB sulfur limits and the proposed changes in sulfur limits in MARPOL. Click to enlarge.

US and MARPOL. The president’s signature of the act brings into statute Annex VI to the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (known as MARPOL). The US Senate gave its formal advice and consent to Annex VI in 2006. The final step of the ratification process is for the President deliver a letter—known as diplomatic instrument of ratification—to the International Maritime Organization. The US becomes a party three months later. MARPOL Annex VI entered into force beginning in May of 2005, although ships have met most provisions since 2000.

Under MARPOL Annex VI, container ships, tankers, cruise ships and bulk carriers must limit NOx emissions from their Category 3 diesel engines. Category 3 marine diesel engines are those with per-cylinder displacement at or above 30 liters. It also sets a cap on the sulfur content of the fuel they burn and includes a program for designating areas where more stringent fuel controls apply, such as near coastlines that have more severe air quality concerns.

This October, the parties to MARPOL will work to strengthen NOx and SO2 standards and the sulfur requirements in fuel.

In April, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) approved proposed amendments to the MARPOL Annex VI regulations that implements a progressive reduction in sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions, with the global sulfur cap reduced initially to 3.50% (35,000 ppm) from the current 4.50% (45,000 ppm), effective 1 January 2012; then progressively to 0.50% (5,000 ppm), effective 1 January 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018. Should the 2018 review reach a negative conclusion, the effective date would default to 1 January 2025.

The limits applicable in Sulfur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) would be reduced to 1.00% (10,000 ppm), beginning on 1 March 2010 (from the current 1.50%, 15,000 ppm); being further reduced to 0.10% (1,000 ppm), effective from 1 January 2015. In the current Annex VI, there are two SECAs designated: the Baltic Sea and the North Sea area, which also includes the English Channel. (Earlier post.) The US Environmental PRotection AGency (EPA) has said that it intends to investigate this special designation for one or more areas in the United States.

Emissions from large ships comprise an increasing share of the nation’s pollution inventory. In 2001, in terms of mobile sources, oceangoing vessels contributed nearly 6% of NOx, more than 10% of PM2.5, and about 40% of SO2 to the nation’s air pollution. Without further controls, those numbers will rise to about 34% of NOx, 45% of PM2.5, and 94% of SO2 emissions by 2030.


Nate H.

This will add money to their fuel bills. And our costs for goods.


Nate H.
Dover, Ohio


Nate, you better get your wallet out. Not only will it increase their fuel cost. But nearly all the ships will need to be retrofitted with a seperate tank system to hold the 'port' fuel and this should put a nice stain on the supply of lighter fuels.

get ready, cause we'll be paying for it.

I just hope a bunch of big ports around the world adopt similar regulations and force international shipping companies to clean up their mess.


Nate and Joseph, it sure is a tragedy that you guys might have to pay a fraction of a cent more for your cheap Chinese crap at Walmart just so a few thousand people don't die.


Everyone, reread the last paragraph of the article. You see, once you are successful in controlling a pollutant, most of the pollution will come from whatever is not controlled. We've spent billions eliminating pollution from diesel trucks and coal power plants, so now all that remains comes from those huge unregulated ships flying the panamanian flag.

This regulation, if matched by all US, Mexican and Canadian ports, would eliminate 40% of all the sulfur dioxide pollutants in the US. What a great thing!

And yes, I would pay $0.50 more for my new Lexus for that benefit. Duh.


George, please do some research before you post.

Although China is the largest trading partner, imports from China are less than 20% of the port of LA's business. It is a world port with both import and export to nearly 120 countries and the largest Cruise center in the western hemisphere

FYI. The most imported types of goods were, in order: furniture; apparel; toys and sporting goods; vehicle and vehicle parts. Not cheap Chinese crap.



Chinese emissions from coal burning reach the United States and are having an effect in the mountains in West Coast states. These particles are dense enough that, at maximum levels during the spring, they account at higher altitudes for a fifth or more of the maximum levels of particles allowed by the latest federal air quality standards. Over the course of a year, Chinese pollution averages 10 to 15 percent of allowable levels of particles. The amounts are smaller for lower-lying cities, like Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Unless Chinese regulators become much more aggressive over the next few years, considerably more emissions could reach the United States. Chinese pollution is already starting to make it harder and more expensive for West Coast cities to meet stringent air quality standards, said Professor Cliff of the University of California, slowing four decades of progress toward cleaner air.

China contributes one-sixth of the world's sulfur pollution. Together with the emissions from various other countries, those from China seem to offset more than one-third of the warming effect from manmade carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere, according to several climate models.



This is precisely why we need China and India to partner in the effort. We are not the #1 polluter anymore, in fact we might be #3 by the end of the year. If China and India don't match us, it really won't matter what we do. In the grand scheme making them switch to lighter fuels 25 miles off the coast is not going to do much if the on shore winds are going to blow in all the crap they have spewed while crossing the ocean. So instead of making ships retrofit why not do something to make bunker fuel burn better. It would probably be cheaper all the way around.

stas peterson

Once again the CARBite bureaucrats grab the headlines, and Mr. Bush's EPA quietly does the heavy lifting.

CARB will require vessels calling on CA ports to burn low sulfur fuels when within 24 miles of the CA coast. Result: a few ships will install a separate tank for that fuel and continue to pollute as usual, for the other thousands of miles of their voyages.

Passing MARPOL causes the shippers worldwide to have to conform to Annex VI regulations, as toughened in the international treaty negotiated as this amendment. The new Tier III and Tier IV regulations will progressively clean the outputs of all the maritime fleets worldwide, through 2020.

They will have to be cleaning up both thier fuel that is used on every inch of every one of their voyages (save the 24 miles approaching CA ports), and upgrade their combustion technology.

The means of enforcement is Marine Insurance and insurability.

Since virtually every ship needs insurance, even the ones flagged in Panama, Liberia and other flags of convenience will have to adopt Tier III and Tier IV cleaner fuels; and cleaner emissions technology including secondary treatment such as are found on auto exhaust systems that are adaptable to the large two stroke marine diesels.

Each will help in its own way. CARB needs to cleanup the LA basin and SF bay.

These are the two most polluted areas left in the USA.

Its a delight to see CARB return to its charter responsibilities of removing genuine toxics like NOx, SOx, CO, VOCs and PMs from the air.

As time goes on, it is becoming ever more clear, that chasing CO2 is a figment of Algore's and his sock puppet, Hansen's imagination. They were based on some qualitative theories proposed a century ago, that have now been measured. And now quantitatively proved to be minuscule, and of no consequence.

Nate H.

To "George":

1) I enjoy shopping at Target for my cheap Chinese Crap.

2) I would like to see a study that PROVES anyone will live because of less Soot or Sulfur Dioxide.

3) Everyone dies, buddie. You just have to get used to that. Even you one day will cease to exist. And my guess is soot will have no part in your death. Nor mine.

Take that, put it in your pipe, and smoke it. (Filtered through a DPF of course).

Nate H.
Dover, Ohio


@Nate H.

I have posted some studies that you require on this tread as follows:

This deals with the US only. It is hard to get anything that can be trusted from China.

By the way, smoking is also not good for us or our children.


What level of CO2 do you think is dangerous? Clearly there is one. Just take a look at Venus.

Andrey Levin

SOx, NOx, and PM pollution over the ocean is of no importance. It is very quickly washed down, and is minuscule for sea water compared with volcanoes, desert dust, and alike.

What matter is pollution spewed by ocean going ships near and in the ports. To mitigate such problem switch to distillate fuel from 24 nm will suffice. BTW, such measure is still illegal according to maritime law, and there will be battles to implement it.


@ Andrey Levin

The pollution that I referenced is pollution over land that has already been washed by the ocean. Yet, it remains an all pervasive problem on the West coast.

Ship pollution is localized. The expense at its mitigation is unwarranted in light of the Chinese background pollution.



I'm truly appalled that you will have to pay a tiny fraction more for your "furniture; apparel; toys and sporting goods; vehicle and vehicle parts" so that a few thousand people will not die.

Nate, Do your own research, son. The key word is "particulates".

Stan, Particulate pollution in the near vicinity of humans is more harmful to their health than the same pollution on the open ocean.

stas peterson

I agree with the statement that pollution near me effects me more than on the other side of the world, in China.

But if you would cleanse the environment; you must actually clean the environment.

All I was illustrating is that there is a right way, and a wrong way of doing it.

CARB has been quick to claim by incessent publicity about its probably ineffective and very limited cleanup. Meanwhile the truly historic and massive cleanup by MARPOL, is never mentioned.

Why? One is an environmental cleanup action, primarily,doen by a politician who prefwers to let his actions speak. The other is a mild environmental action, but a political action, primarily. CARB's mission has not been completed, CA coastal cities are still polluted but all its tools have just about been exhausted. It trying to justify a continued existence. The first, last, and only real mission of a bureaucracy.

MARPOL Annex VI started back around 2000, and the first attempts, Tier I and Tier II, to cleanse the OGV vessels were passed then. The method of enforcement was novel; via insurability. But it proved to be a valid stick; and much better than imploring national governments, to enforce regualtions on shippers and flags of convenience. Nations that get that status, and the registration fees, by carefully ignoring any regulation, was proven ineffective, as an enforcement mechanism. The UN is even more toothless.

The largest sources of pollution have been attacked first. By their simple ubiquity, Automobiles and their makers were forced to develop technology to clean them up. The technology developed is filtering down to large trucks and locomotives now,and regualtiosn requiring them is in force.

Similarly aircraft are being improved, and then attention was directed at inland waterway, port vessels, and finally OGVs.

The world is the better for it. After all, junk out the exhaust is symptomatic of inefficient and incomplete combustion. Ideally we would like to see nothing but neutral gasses in the exhaust.

Nothing but N2, O2, CO2, and H2O, (the worst GHG) would be ideal.

stas peterson


The number of years before the world naturally turns from fossil fuels to better sources of energy is probably less than 50 years. The conversion will likely be finished before the turn of the century. We will continue to use fossil for feed stocks for medicines, and polymers for a long time, and there will always be some left, or to make, for that purpose.

The CO2 levels might even get as high as they did when Tambora blew its top in 1815 (about 440 ppm) or so, per Ernst-Georg Beck. No big deal. Enjoy the lush world, at least until the Plants eat all the CO2 out again.

We all know that electric cars, the last unsubstitutable need, to sever fossil fuels from energy production, are coming. How many will there be, by say 2050? Or even in 2020?

The US will have between 33% and 40% of its electric generation provided by splitting atoms by 2017-18, as the 34 new nuclear plants in the pipeline join the grid, up from 21%. Together with clean hydro, if the dam-busters are throttled, collectively that is more than 50% of US electrical generation. More will follow too. (Thank You Mr. Bush for persevering in GENIII+ nukes, and pre-certified designs.)

By itself those nuclear plants will displace so much coal and CO2, that it more than exceeds Kyoto if anyone cared.

Many new coal plants will be built to simply replace the old coal plants that wear out. Each IGCC clean coal plant puts out 20% less CO2, for the same amount of electricity it generates. (Thank You, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush)

There is no reason that the US couldn't be like France, and get 85% of its Energy from non fossil sources, now that Actinide Burning and reprocessing will solve the radioactive waste issue.

Along about the 2030, (Thank You Mr. Bush for ITER), Fusion power generation will start joining the grid too. And yes, let us not forget, a minor 1-3% of energy will come from the clumsy, expensive, so-called renewables that the yahoos scream and chant for.

At least until they are all scrapped, as ridiculously inefficient and expensive sources of not reliable, constantly varying, and intermittent, power; that's never there when you need it.

Fact: US industry uses less energy than it did, not in 1990, but in 1970, already. Commercial and residential HVAC has already converted to electricity, except for older buildings, and these are slowly declining as these buildings are replaced or converted.

On a theoretical basis, you asked "How much CO2 can we handle?" The Plants seem to want up to 1200-1400 ppm for growth, but equilibrium solubility in the Oceans seem to indicate that around 500 ppm is about all that is possible.

At least until the Oceans run dry.

Venus is a poor example as Dr. Miskolczi has pointed out. Its atmosphere is bifurcated; and the only atmosphere that resembles Earth or Mars, occurs above the Venusian cloud tops.

Miskoczi's planetary atmosphere theory shows that an Earth, which now has an atmosphere that actually contacts the surface of the Earth, has a virtual infinite reservoir of GHGs in contact, and yet it doesn't run away.


Energy conservation and the Minimum Energy principle in his mathematics establishes that a "Saturated GHG atmosphere" condition must exist. Earth simply is regulated by energy conservation considerations, to allow no more GHGs than what the level it has already achieved long ages ago, into its now saturated GHG atmosphere.

If CO2 is added, equivalent H2O levels go down. If CH4 goes down, equivalent H2O is added, from the oceans, to maintain the balance. Empirical observations confirm this theory to be the actual case.

The missing heat in the tropic troposphere is shown not to exist, counter to AGW theory just as measurement confirm to be missing. His theory explains why the relative humidity of the stratosphere and upper trope is declining and has been since at least 1948. This was a an unexplainable puzzle to climatologists and AGW Warmists.

BTW the current accepted theory doesn't allow the atmosphere to touch the surface of the Earth or Ocean. How real is that?

They did it, because the Mathematics was primitive, or the Mathematicians were, back in 1928, when the current Theory was proposed.

Look at your shoetops. Can you see the chunk of Outer Space, the Vacuum discontinuity, that MUST BE THERE, according to AGW theory, between your shoetops and the soles of your feet, planted on Terra Firma?

If you can't see, or touch that Vacuum, that speaks volumes about the validity of their AGW atmospheric models. Its also why the atmosphere can't, according to them, take up any amount of GHG H20 from the Oceans and run away. It simply isn't in contact with the Ocean. It also explains why they can't calculate the temperature of the surface of the Earth correctly, to within 25 degrees Centigrade.

Why must the atmosphere wait for dribs and drabs of CO2 that they say mankind gives it, before it can someday runaway, whrn it has Oceans of H20 to use?

Ah but you say, we all know evaporation takes place, don't we? The oceans do give up water vapor to the atmosphere. Not to the present AGW theory, it doesn't. Evaporation and precipitation like rain or snow can't actually happen, according to the current AGW Theory. But a fudge factor can be added afterward, to admit "unofficially" that it DOES happen, and they do.

It is actually hilarious to watch the contortions that the AGW Warmists are going through, to try to defend the indefensible current theory, against the great illuminating advances of Dr. Miskolczi's work.


state waters go to 12 miles not 24. Last I checked Kommiefornia was still part of the USA and Federal law always superceeds state laws especially in the issues of interstate or international commerce. see the interstate commerce clause of the US Consitution.

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