ECA Low Sulphur Requirements’ Compliance Scrutinized

first_imgzoom In a new enforcement initiative, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in cooperation with the United States Coast Guard (USCG), has boarded vessels to collect bunker samples to determine whether the vessels’ fuel sources meet the 1.0% fuel oil sulphur limit applicable within the North American Emissions Control Area (ECA), UK P&I Club said.The EPA also disclosed that it has been “experimenting” with vessel flyovers to assess vessel smokestack plumes for the same purpose.The EPA’s unprecedented action, coming on the heels of its issuance of administrative subpoenas to several large companies operating ships within the North American ECA, announced stepped up efforts to enforce low sulphur fuel requirements within the North American ECA.“These joint EPA/USCG initiatives to enforce fuel standards should serve as a warning to Club’s Members operating within the North American ECA,” the Club said.The commercial and legal consequences of a failure to comply with the ECA’s fuel oil sulphur limits – or the commercial and legal consequences, even if the United States government has only “reasonable cause” to believe that vessels failed to comply with the ECA’s fuel oil sulphur limits – are potentially severe.The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) limits reduced the sulphur content of fuel oil used by vessels to 1.0% in specially designated areas such as the North American ECA, which extends 200 miles from the United States coast. “MARPOL, however, is not self-executing”In the United States, MARPOL is implemented through the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS), which supplements existing civiland criminal legal authorities vested in EPA and the USCG under the Federal Clean Air and Federal Clean Water Acts.Thus, enforcement of the standards on vessel air pollution is seen as a priority, particularly on the West coast, in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.APPS gives the USCG and, through a Memorandum of Understanding, the EPA broad authority to investigate potential MARPOL violations; it also gives the USCG and United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) broad authority to detain vessels during the course of investigations.Pursuant to the EPA’s Interim Guidance on the Non-Availability of Compliant Fuel Oil for the North American Emissions Control Area, companies are encouraged to voluntarily disclose instances in which their vessels cannot obtain compliant fuel oil because it is not available.APPS also authorizes the United States to refuse or revoke a vessel’s clearance to proceed from a port or place in the United States if “reasonable cause exists to believe” the vessel violated the ECA.Like any other detention, this action could have severe commercial and legal consequences.Press Release, August 13, 2014last_img

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