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MARPOL Annex VI, “Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships”, was adopted by the 1997 Conference of the Parties to the MARPOL Convention. This Annex will enter into force on 19th May 2005, following the ratification of the convention by Samoa on 18th May 2004, fulfilling the requirement of 15 countries representing at least 50 per cent of the world’s gross tonnage.

Air pollution
While land-based industry has been subject to strenuous emissions regulations over the past decades, air emissions from sea-going ships’ machinery has so far been largely unregulated. As a result, according to EU statistics, ships have become the single biggest source of sulphur dioxide (SO2) within the EU. The US EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency) reports similar findings, i.e., that the proportion of air pollutants released which can be attributed to the shipping industry is increasing. MARPOL Annex VI aims to reduce emissions from ships through international regulations, which hopefully will discourage states from enacting unilateral regulations problematic to the shipping industry.

MARPOL Annex VI regulates the emission to the atmosphere of specified pollutants from ships, including nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur oxides (SOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and heavy metals, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These substances contribute to environmental problems including acidification/acid rain (NOx, SOx), eutrophication or oxygen depletion of inland and some coastal waters (NOx), the creation of ground level ozone (VOCs and NOx), the depletion of atmospheric ozone (CFCs) and the accumulation of PCBs and heavy metals in the food chain – i.e., a wide range of both regional and global environmental concerns.

When Annex VI enters into force shipowners must ensure that all ships of 400 GT or above, and all platforms and drilling rigs engaged in voyages to ports and waters where the MARPOL convention applies, have a valid International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate (IAPPC) confirming compliance with both the equipment and operational requirements of Annex VI. The certificate is issued on behalf of the flag state. As with other MARPOL certificates, the states will in most cases delegate the certification to the classification societies. A grace period is provided for ships in service to obtain the necessary certificate; in which case the IAPPC initial survey is to be undertaken no later than the first scheduled dry-docking thereafter, although in all cases within three years of the date of entry into force.

Some of the relevant regulations include:

Regulation 12 – Prohibits the use or release of ozone-depleting substances (CFCs). New installations containing ozone-depleting substances are prohibited on all ships; however, existing installations containing hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are permitted until 1st January 2020.

Regulation 13 – Restricts NOx emissions from diesel engines according to a corresponding technical code and applies to engines with a power output of more than 130 kW, installed or subject to a “major conversion” after 1st January 2000 (except emergency generators). NOx emission from an engine is closely related to the design of the engine. Classification societies have taken this into account for some years already. The quality of the fuel itself also has a significant impact on the NOx emission level, and is addressed in regulation 18.

MARPOL Annex VI aims to reduce emissions from ships through international regulations.

Regulation 14 – Restricts SOx emissions from ships by introducing a maximum sulphur content in marine fuels of 4.5 per cent. In addition, MARPOL Annex VI identifies SOx emission control areas (SECA). In these areas the maximum sulphur content of marine fuels used is 1.5 per cent. The Baltic Sea is the only area that is defined as a SECA in Annex VI. However, the North Sea has met the necessary criteria to be declared a SECA after the entry into force of the Annex. Furthermore, there may be other areas, i.e., areas to the west of the British Isles, west of continental Europe, US coastal waters or the Mediterranean, in total or in part, which may be proposed as SECAs in the near future. From the above, it is apparent that vessels may have to carry several grades of fuel oil, and thus overcome related potential practical problems.

Regulation 15 – States that in ports where there is a need to control the emission of VOCs, there is also a requirement for the ports to ensure appropriate recovery facilities are available.

Regulation 16 – Prohibits the incineration of certain substances, including; PCBs, garbage containing traces of heavy metals, refined petroleum products containing halogen compounds and residues from MARPOL Annex I, II and III cargoes.

Regulation 18 – Contains standards regarding the quality documentation requirements for fuel oil. The fuel oil must be free from inorganic oil, is not to include added substances or chemical waste and is not to exceed the sulphur limits of 4.5 per cent or 1.5 per cent. With respect to documentation, a bunker delivery note must be issued and retained specifying, among others, the oil-product name, density at 15 degrees Celsius and the sulphur content.

Failure to comply
Ships found not to be in compliance with Annex VI, once it enters into force, may be detained by port state control inspectors. Also, sanctions for violations, most likely fines, may be determined by local law where the violation occurs or the law of the flag state. Potential fines received as a result of the failure to comply with Annex VI will probably not fall within the scope of P&I cover, as they concern operational emissions as opposed to accidental releases of a pollutant. Nevertheless, any incidents reported will be considered on a case by case basis.

In light of the implications MARPOL Annex VI has on the required fuel oil quality in given areas, it is recommended that owners consider the relevant charterparty terms to protect their position with respect to potential fines and/or charterparty disputes. BIMCO have drafted a relevant clause in this respect, the BIMCO Fuel Sulphur Content Clause for Time Charter Parties.1

MARPOL Annex VI will enter into force eight years after it was adopted, and some parties would argue that certain provisions are already out of date. Specifically the 4.5 per cent sulphur limit for fuel oil is not considered particularly ambitious by legislators, as reportedly the average sulphur content of marine fuel globally is 2.6-2.7 per cent.2 In comparison, the EU Commission is working with a draft proposal limiting the sulphur content of marine fuel used by inland vessels and by sea-going ships while at berth in EU ports to 0.2 per cent, and 1.5 per cent for vessels trading in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and the English Channel as well as fuels used by passenger vessels on regular services between EU ports. Consequently, it seems probable that emissions levels may be restricted further by identifying new emissions control areas once the Annex has come into force.

When MARPOL Annex VI comes into force next year as the last of the six annexes, MARPOL will provide a comprehensive set of international regulations related to ship-generated pollution.

1 “Fuel Sulphur Content Clause for Time Charter Parties – Notwithstanding anything else contained in this Charter Party, the Charterers shall supply fuels of such specifications and grades to permit the Vessel, at all times, to meet the maximum sulphur content requirements of any emission control zone when the Vessel is trading within that zone. The Charterers shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless the Owners in respect of any loss, liability, delay, fines, costs or expenses arising or resulting from the Charterers’ failure to comply with this Clause. For the purpose of this Clause, “emission control zone” shall mean zones as stipulated in MARPOL Annex VI and/or zones regulated by regional and/or national authorities such as, but not limited to, the EU and the US Environmental Protection Agency.”
2  MEPC sulphur monitoring programme.


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