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IMO’s decision on Nitrogen emissions from ships provides a clearer framework for the Maritime Industry

15 May Press Release

May 15th, 2014

With the active involvement of the HELCOM member states including all Baltic Sea countries, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 66) has agreed last Friday on a compromise on the implementation dates of existing as well as future Nitrogen Oxide Emission Control Areas (NOx ECAs) under the MARPOL Convention, reports HELCOM.

The establishing of such a control area is expected to mitigate pollution since emissions from shipping constitute a significant source of airborne nitrogen deposition to the Baltic Sea.

The adoption of the compromise amendments includes the retaining of the implementation date of 2016 for the already designated North American and US Caribbean NOx ECAs; postponing the effective date of superyachts in operation in these areas to 2021, and leave the implementation dates of future NOx ECA areas to be decided on a case by case basis. As for the Baltic Sea, an application document has been prepared by HELCOM Maritime Groupsince 2008 and regarded as ready for submission since 2012.

“The designation of new Emission Control Area is important in order to reduce NOx emissions from shipping. I believe the amendment adopted by MEPC 66 has clarified the conditions for new NECAs and will facilitate the discussions of an application to IMO to designate the Baltic Sea a NOx ECA“, says Ms. Anna Petersson, Chair of HELCOM Maritime Group.

Shipping in the Baltic is the source of over 13000 tons of airborne nitrogen deposited to the sea annually, close to the total contribution of land based airborne emissions in countries like Russia or Sweden. If the Baltic Sea would be established as a NOx ECAs it is expected to reduce Nitrogen pollution of the Baltic Sea by around 7000 tons annually.

The intensive negotiations that took place last week in London on Nitrogen emission control, have been based on several submissions from IMO member states.


When in force, the Nitrogen Oxide Emission Control Areas (NOx ECAs) require that ships meet the strictest (Tier III) NOx emission standards defined in the Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention when operating in these areas. So far only two NOx ECAs, in the North America and United States Caribbean Sea, have been designated but such status has been discussed at least within the Baltic and the North Seas.

In October 2013, due to the lack of firm IMO decision on implementation dates the Baltic Sea countries were in a difficult negotiation positions during the HELCOM Ministerial Meeting. The Countries did not agree on new substantial decisions regarding the Baltic Sea NOx ECA submission to IMO MEPC, despite lengthy negotiations. As a compromise the 2013 HELCOM declaration refers to an earlier commitment from 2010 to work towards submitting a joint proposal to IMO preferably by 2011.

HELCOM has had the observer status at IMO since the early 1980s and was represented at the IMO MEPC 66 by the Secretariat. The Chair of the HELCOM Maritime Group, Ms. Anna Petersson, participated in the meeting as part of the Swedish delegation.

The HELCOM Maritime Group identifies and promotes actions to limit sea-based pollution and ways for safer navigation. It also works to ensure enforcement and harmonized implementation of international shipping regulations.

The Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission, usually referred to as HELCOM, is an intergovernmental organisation of the nine Baltic Sea coastal countries and the European Union working to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea from all sources of pollution and to ensure safety of navigation in the region. Since 1974, HELCOM has been the governing body of the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area’, more commonly known as the Helsinki Convention.

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