Ocean Shippers Face Tighter Air Pollution Rules

Air pollution from oceangoing ships will be dramatically reduced under new rules agreed to by shipping companies, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and international regulators. The pollution rules affect container ships, cruise lines and oil tankers calling on West Coast ports.

Winds off the ocean can blow ship pollution hundreds of miles, according to the feds. E.P.A.'s top administrator says stricter limits on vessel emissions therefore mean people on the coasts and far inland will breathe cleaner air. The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association has come around to the final rules. Its vice president, T.L. Garrett, says international shippers will have to switch to cleaner-burning fuels in U.S. and Canadian waters beginning in 2012.

T.L. Garrett: “That is going to be a major change and it's probably going to result in significant increase in the cost of fuel for vessels operating in these waters in the future.”

Garrett says those costs will likely to be passed on to customers. He says many oceangoing vessels will need engine modifications so they can burn different fuels during different segments of a voyage. On the open seas, ships can continue to burn heavy fuel oil or bunker fuel. When they're near the West Coast, they'll have to switch to a low-sulfur fuel.

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