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International Maritime Organization

North American Emission Control Area

In 2010, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) officially designated waters off North American coasts as an "Emission Control Area" (ECA), in which more stringent regional emission standards will apply to ships. Ships entering the designated area will need to use compliant fuel and advanced emission control technology for the duration of their voyage within that area. These standards will dramatically reduce air pollution from ships and deliver substantial air quality and public health benefits that extend hundreds of miles inland.

Learn more about the ECA

Fact Sheet from Office of Transportation and Air Quality

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Exit EPA disclaimerwas created in 1948 to promote cooperation between governments in the regulation of shipping engaged in international trade, and to encourage the adoption of the highest practicable standards concerning maritime safety, efficiency of navigation and prevention and control of marine pollution from ships.

EPA works closely with our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of State to represent U.S. interests at the IMO Council and its subsidiary bodies. EPA has been instrumental in pushing for higher energy efficiency requirements for new ships, stricter emission limits on greenhouse gases, and the implementation of an Emissions Control Area (ECA) in both North America and the U.S. Caribbean.

Recent Events

The 62nd session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the IMO took place in July 2011. At this meeting:

  • The IMO formally adopted the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships in the form of a new amendment on energy efficiency to MARPOL Annex VI. This is the first ever mandatory global greenhouse gas reduction regime established for an international industry sector.
  • The MEPC designated the waters around Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as an Emission Control Area in which more stringent regional emission and fuel quality standards will apply to ships.
  • The MEPC agreed to initiate work on addressing the impact in the Arctic of black carbon emissions from international shipping.
  • The MEPC adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex IV to allow for designation of special areas for the prevention of pollution by sewage from ships.
  • The MEPC also adopted revised Annex V regulations for the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships.

The 63rd session of the MEPC will be held from February 27 – March 2, 2012.

Past Events


The 60th Session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) took place from March 22-26, 2010. See the meeting agenda Exit EPA disclaimer


Other results of the meeting included:

Amendments to the MARPOL Convention

At the Session, the MEPC agreed upon two amendments to the MARPOL Convention:

  • Protecting the Antarctic from pollution by heavy grade oils, by prohibiting the carriage, in bulk as cargo, or carriage and use as fuel, of certain kinds of crude oil, bitumen, tar and their emulsions (with an exception for vessels engaged in securing the safety of ships or in a search-and-rescue operation)
  • To designate specific portions of the coastal waters of the United States and Canada, and the French island territories of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, as an Emission Control Area (ECA) for the control of emissions of NOx, SOx and PM.

Exhaust from ship

Implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention

  • The MEPC adopted a resolution to encourage the installation of ballast water management systems on new ships, as part of the implementation of the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004.
  • The draft resolution also urges those countries that have not already done so to ratify the Convention. To date, the Convention has been ratified by 22 countries representing 22.65 % of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping.
  • The convention will go into force one year after 30 countries, the combined merchant fleets of which constitute not less than 35 percent of the gross tonnage of the world’s merchant shipping, have become Parties to it.

Garbage Special Areas

  • The MEPC agreed to establish May 1, 2011 as the date on which the discharge requirements for the Wider Caribbean Region Special Area will take effect.
  • Under MARPOL Annex V (Regulations for the prevention of pollution by garbage from ships), in Special Areas, disposal of all garbage into the sea, including plastics, is prohibited.
  • The Wider Caribbean Special Area, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, was designated as a Special Area under MARPOL Annex V in July 1991.
  • All countries in the region have now given notice that adequate reception facilities are provided in all relevant ports, so that the Special Area status can be made effective in 2011.

Recycling of Ships

  • The MEPC continued its work on developing Guidelines for safe and environmentally sound ship recycling.

  • The Committee also began development of Guidelines for the development of the Ship Recycling Plan.
  • Once developed, these guidelines will assist ship-recycling facilities and ship operators to begin introducing voluntary improvements to meet the requirements of the Hong Kong International Covention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, which was adopted in May 2009.
IMO Plenary Session

Measures to address GHG from ships

  • The session considered technical and operational measures to increase energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions from international shipping. The meeting concluded that more work is needed, and established an intersessional Working Group to continue the discussion.
  • With regard to market-based measures, the Committee agreed to establish an Expert Group to study the feasibilty and impact of the proposals under consideration. The U.S. has submitted one such proposal that establishes required efficiency standards for all new and existing ships and allows efficiency credit trading to drive efficiency gains in this sector.
  • Each of these groups will report back to MEPC 61 in 2011.

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For additional information on EPA's marine and treaty efforts within the IMO, contact:

Marianne Bailey
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2660R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail: bailey.marianne@epa.gov
(202) 564-6600

For additional information on EPA's air-related engagements with the IMO, contact:

Brian Muehling
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2660R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460
E-mail: muehling.brian@epa.gov
(202) 564-6600

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