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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) today announced an agreement to jointly enforce U.S. and international air pollution requirements for vessels operating in U.S. waters. The requirements establish limits on nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions and require the use of fuel with lower sulfur content, protecting people’s health and the environment by reducing ozone-producing pollution, which can cause smog and aggravate asthma. The most stringent requirements apply to ships operating within 200 nautical miles of the coast of North America.

The large marine diesel engines that provide propulsion and auxiliary power on many ocean-going vessels emit significant amounts of pollution. Without further action, EPA estimates that by 2030, NOx emissions from ships will more than double, growing to 2.1 million tons per year. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by EPA and the USCG outlines the agencies’ commitment to jointly enforce federal and international laws that EPA projects could prevent 12,000-31,000 premature deaths annually by 2030. Under the MOU, both the USCG and EPA will perform inspections and investigations, and will take appropriate enforcement actions if a violation is detected.

A letter to industry was also signed today by USCG and EPA to provide the regulated community with notice that USCG and EPA will be taking measures to promote compliance with federal and international air pollution requirements and will be actively pursuing violations.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is a United Nations agency which deals with maritime safety, security and the prevention of marine pollution from ships across the globe. The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), developed through the IMO, is the main international convention covering prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships. MARPOL Annex VI addresses air pollution from ships through the use of both engine-based and fuel-based standards. Additionally, MARPOL Annex VI requires ships operated in designated geographical areas, known as emission control areas or ECAs, to meet the most advanced standards for NOx emissions and fuel sulfur limits. The United States became a party to MARPOL Annex VI in 2008 and the treaty is implemented in the United States through the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). (EPA)

Read the MOU

Learn about EPA’s Ocean Vessels and Large Ships Program