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For the next two years, vessels operating in regulated California waters will continue to be subject to two separate sets of vessel air emission regulations. 

Regulatory background

The California Air Resources Board’s (CARB’s) Ocean-Going Vessel (OGV) Fuel regulation is a critical part of California’s plan to attain the desired air quality standards in Southern California and across the state. Since 1 January 2014, vessels operating within 24 nautical miles of California’s coastline (regulated California waters) have therefore been required to use distillate fuel with a sulphur content not exceeding 0.10 per cent by mass.

On 1 January 2015, the sulphur cap for vessel’s operating in the MARPOL Annex VI North American Emission Control Area (ECA) also dropped to 0.10 per cent, and since the ECA extends 200 nautical miles off the West Coast of the United States, it encompasses regulated California waters. However, the two sets of regulations are not identical as some of the provisions under the ECA Regulation that provide for alternative compliance options, e.g. use of exhaust gas cleaning devices and non-distillate low sulphur fuels, are not specifically identified in the California OGV Fuel Regulation. Since 1 January 2015, and pending CARB’s review and comparison of achieved emission reductions under the two regulations, vessels operating in regulated California waters have been required to comply with both the California OGV Fuel Regulation and the ECA Regulation. See also previous Gard Alerts of November 2015, February 2014 and October 2011

Conclusions of CARB’s regulatory review 

The process of reviewing and comparing the achieved emission reductions under the California OGV Fuel Regulation and the ECA Regulation is now finalised. In their Marine Notice 2016-1 of 7 April 2016, CARB states that, although both regulations currently specify the same maximum sulphur content, they have come to the conclusion that:

  • compliance with the ECA Regulation alone is not likely to achieve the desired emission reductions within regulated California waters; and
  • the California OGV Fuel Regulation will remain in force for at least two more years until a re-evaluation has been performed.

Recommendations

Members and clients with vessels operating in regulated California waters, that is, within 24 nautical miles of the California coastline, should note CARB’s conclusion regarding applicable air emission regulations and ensure that their vessels continue to comply with both the California OGV Fuel Regulation and the requirements under MARPOL Annex VI for the North American ECA.

In order to allow vessels that are complying with the ECA Regulation by use of alternative emission control technologies or non-distillate marine fuels to operate in regulated California waters, an exemption scheme was identified by CARB in August 2014 and is described in Marine Notice 2014-1.

More information from CARB can be found on their webpage: Ocean-Going Vessels – Fuel Rule.