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Maritime Environmental Issues

Notice of Inquiry – Solicitation of Views on the Impact of Slow Steaming

On January 31, 2010, the FMC issued a Notice of Inquiry to solicit public comment on the impact of slow steaming on U.S. ocean liner commerce. Responses are due April 5, 2011. The Commission seeks public comment as to how the practice of slow steaming has 1) impacted ocean liner carrier operations and shippers’ international supply chains; 2) affected the cost of ocean liner service; and 3) mitigated greenhouse gas emissions.

Port of New York/New Jersey Sustainable Services Agreement

The FMC provided expedited review and allowed to become effective on December 13, 2010, a proposal of the Marine Terminal Operators at the Port of New York/New Jersey for authority to take new steps aimed at improving efficiency, sustainability, and security at the Port. These include discussing and entering into agreements with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey "on subjects relating to environmentally sensitive, efficient, and secure marine terminal operations," and seeking grants for technology improvements. New York/New Jersey terminal operators have stated that their immediate effort would be to cooperate on deploying radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to identify trucks entering terminal facilities at the Port. This technology would assist the Port in improving security and support its Clean Truck Program, a central part of its Clean Air Strategy.

The text of the Sustainable Services Agreement is publicly available in the Commission’s online agreements library.

IMO Proposes U.S. Caribbean Emission Control Area

During its session from September 27, 2010 through October 1, 2010, the International Maritime Orgranization’s (IMO’s) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) approved a proposal by the United States to designate waters adjacent to the coasts of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands as an Emission Control Area. The MEPC will consider the proposal for adoption at the next MEPC meeting in July 2011. Under the proposal, ships in the U.S. Caribbean Emission Control Area, which covers oceans within roughly 40-50 nautical miles of Puerto Rican coasts and extends to areas surrounding the U.S. Virgin Islands, would be required to take measures to control emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter.

Click to enlargeBoundaries Proposed US Caribbean Emission Control Area
Boundaries of the Proposed U.S. Caribbean Emission Control Area

Currently, ships are responsible for 36% of SOx emissions, 37% of NOx emissions, and 26% of fine particulate (PM2.5) emissions in the covered area. The EPA estimates that the Emission Control Area will cut annual ship emissions of SOx by 31,000 tons or 96%, of NOx by 11,000 tons or 27%, and of fine particles (PM2.5) by 3,300 tons or 86% below expected 2020 levels.

This would be the fourth Emission Control Area designated by the MEPC, and the second that covers U.S. territorial waters. The recently approved North American Emission Control Area is the largest in the world, and covers oceans within 200 nautical miles (230 miles) of U.S. or Canadian coasts.

For more information on the proposal, see the IMO announcement, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s fact sheet, proposal submission, and Information Document.

IMO Approval of North American Emission Control Area

On March 26, 2010, the International Maritime Organization's (IMO's) Marine Environmental Protection Committee adopted amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) to establish a North American Emission Control Area. Ships in the North American Emission Control Area, which covers oceans within 200 nautical miles (230 miles) of U.S. or Canadian coasts, will be subject to new limits on emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter. The amendments will enter into force on August 1, 2011.

Click to enlargeBoundaries North American Emission Control Area
Boundaries of the North American Emission Control Area


For more information on the adoption of the amendment, see the IMO announcement, and the EPA's Ocean-Going Vessels: North American Emissions Control Fact Sheet.

Slow Steaming and Ocean Carrier Initiatives

The FMC reviewed, and allowed to become effective on February 6, 2010, a proposal of the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA) that would allow member lines to establish a forum to discuss ways to reduce vessel-related pollution. The TSA is a discussion agreement among 15 carriers operating in the U.S.-Asia trades. Those carriers are the major ocean common carriers involved in the largest U.S. international shipping lane. TSA officials and member lines have stated that their immediate effort would be to coordinate the implementation of a practice called slow steaming. Slow steaming allows vessels to save fuel, which reduces their emissions and affords substantial cost savings during this period of financial stress. TSA member lines have indicated that they may also use their new authority to work to increase use of alternative fuels, cold ironing, and other pollution-reducing technologies. While these practices hold promise for reducing vessels' emissions, the Commission will closely monitor slow-steaming arrangements to ensure that they do not cause unreasonable constraints as international shipping demand recovers.

The text of the pollution reduction working agreement can be found on pages 8-8c of the TSA agreement.


Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach Clean Truck Program

In August 2009, the Commission voted unanimously to withdraw opposition to the Clean Truck programs at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and allow their clean air measures to proceed. In November 2009, Chairman Lidinsky visited these ports and recognized their "leadership in demonstrating that the maritime industry can remain commercially competitive while acting in a manner consistent with the country's commitment to energy independence and environmental standards." Going forward, the Commission is committed to a proactive relationship with these and the rest of the country's ports as they confront these critical issues.

Green Team LA Lidinsky Trucks
Chairman Lidinsky reviewing new electric and low emission trucks with representatives of the Port of Los Angeles and green technology innovators during his visit in November 2009

Contact Information

FMC's Maritime Environmental Committee

Phone: 202-523-5911

Fax: 202-523-4224

E-mail: FMC's Maritime Environmental Committee

Related Links

Maritime Environmental Committee

Maritime Environmental Committee Events

Maritime Environmental Issues

Maritime Environmental Resources

Chairman's Earth Day Award

Committee Working Group Leads

Brown Bag
Lauren Engel (OGC)

Earth Day Award
Colin Keohan (BOE)

Port Forum
Jason Guthrie (BTA)
Rachel Dickon (OS)