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  • Crucial decision on ‘technically feasible’ ships NOx reduction

    Curtailing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ships is ‘technically feasible’, according to a new study published ahead of this week’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting that will decide on a proposal to postpone the 2016 introduction of NOx emission control areas at sea.

    The finding that selective catalytic reduction – the main method of controlling NOx emissions from newly-built ships in time for 2016 – is viable casts a dim light on the push by Russia, and subsequently largely supported by Norway and the Marshall Islands, to delay the application date for newly-built ships sailing in NOx emission control areas (NECAs).
     
    The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) study used technical literature and industry reports to look at potential barriers to adopting selective catalytic reduction and concluded that none should significantly hinder implementation of the 2016 NOx limits on schedule.
     
    Approximately 1,250 such systems have been installed on ships in the past decade, according to the study. Currently, at least 21 companies based in Europe, the US, and Asia are developing the technology required.
     
    Environmental organisations attending the meeting of MEPC – an International Maritime Organisation committee charged with addressing the environmental impacts of international shipping – are urging IMO members to resist  attempts to postpone the introduction of NECAs. 
     
    T&E and other members of the Clean Shipping Coalition say a five-year delay while preserving the 2016 date for existing ECAs in North America, as proposed by Norway, would give political cover to countries eager to dismantle environmental legislation without being seen to side with Russia.
     
    They say the move by Norway and the Marshall Islands, while at the same time backing the 2016 application date for NECAs in North America, is politically divisive and environmentally harmful. The delay is opposed by most European states and the United States.
     
    The IMO unanimously adopted the law on NECAs in 2008. It will require an 80% reduction in NOx emissions from new ships sailing in the specially designated areas. Last year the IMO’s expert review concluded the necessary technologies were available and that the regulation should proceed on schedule.
     
    But last spring Russia submitted a proposal – initially opposed by Norway – that NECAs be delayed by a full five years, until 2021. Earlier this month, the Norwegian parliament confirmed it now favours the postponement.
     
    Initial debate at the MEPC this week suggests that the 2016 effective date would be retained for the North American NECAs while discussions remain on going about a last-minute proposal from the Cook Islands. It would see the effective date for new ships in any future NECAs being limited to those built after that particular NECA’s implementation date, which will be set with each different NECA application. Essentially it would lead to many different dates across the world and no certainty for industry.
     
    Bill Hemmings of T&E and the Clean Shipping Coalition said: ‘The Norwegian government’s U-turn on NOx pollution on our seas offers political cover for those countries and flag states eager to dismantle environmental legislation without having to be seen to side with Russia.’
     
    ‘Norway needs to withdraw its proposal for a delay and resume its usual progressive approach to the environmental aspects of shipping by working with European and other IMO countries to uphold the integrity of global regulations.’
     
    Air pollution from international shipping, of which NOx emissions are a big part, accounts for about 50,000 premature deaths per year in Europe.