President Bush Signs Maritime Pollution Protection Act of 2008

WASHINGTON – On July 21, 2008, President Bush signed into law the Maritime Pollution Protection Act of 2008.

This action paves the way for U.S. ratification of the Protocol of 1997 to amend the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and incorporates the amended provisions of that important international instrument into U.S. law. The Protocol of 1997 contains amendments to prevent and control air pollution from ships (MARPOL Annex VI). The significant remaining step for the U.S. becoming a party to MARPOL Annex VI is the process of delivering a diplomatic instrument of ratification to the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization.

The contribution of international shipping to U.S. air pollution is substantial and is expected to grow significantly due to increases in foreign trade. In 2001, oceangoing vessels contributed nearly 6 percent of mobile source nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx), more than 10 percent of mobile source particulate matter (PM2.5) and about 40 percent of mobile source sulfur oxides (SO2). Without further controls, the contribution of these engines is estimated to increase to about 34 percent of mobile source NOx, 45 percent of mobile source PM2.5 and 94 percent of mobile source SO2 by 2030.

MARPOL is the principal global agreement to control all types of pollution from marine transportation. Annex VI to the Convention was developed to address the need to prevent and control air pollution. Among other provisions, it contains NOx emission limits for marine diesel engines and sets a cap on the sulfur content of the fuel used in these engines. It also contains a program for the designation of emission control areas in which more stringent fuel controls apply. MARPOL Annex VI entered into force in May 2005.

Adoption of the Maritime Pollution Protection Act of 2008 allows for the United States to become a party to Annex VI, and will significantly enhance the stature of the United States among the community of maritime nations and its ability to influence ongoing and future negotiations. The United States will become a party to the Annex three months after a diplomatic instrument of ratification is submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in London.

In October of this year, the parties to MARPOL Annex VI are expected to adopt amendments to the Annex that would enhance NOx and SO2 emission reductions from ships through new tiers of uniform exhaust emission standards and sulfur fuel requirements. The United States played a very significant role in the development of these new international standards, which have the potential to reduce NOx emissions by 80 percent, SO2 emissions by 95 percent and PM2.5 emissions by 85 percent and would result in needed health and welfare benefits for U.S. citizens.

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