A New Age in Shipping: The US/Canada ECA
18th May 2009 20:24 GMT

The recently submitted US/Canada joint Emission Control Area (ECA) application to the IMO lays out a compelling case for a protected marine zone of sufficient geographic breadth and size, one that stretches from the countries’ coastlines out to 200 nautical miles and includes Hawaii and southeastern Alaska.   

The public health and environmental benefits of an ECA encompassing the full extent of the exclusive economic zone will be enormous.  For example, by 2020, the ECA is projected to avoid 8,300 premature deaths, 9,300 cases of acute bronchitis, and millions of instances of respiratory distress, with monetized health benefits totaling up to 60 billion dollars.  Moreover, the measure is cost-effective, comparing favorably to other U.S. EPA land-based source control programs, and not unduly burdensome to industry: a 2 percent price increase for a new vessel and 3 percent hike in operating costs on a standard Asia-North America voyage.    

While some in industry contend that extending the ECA out to 200 nautical miles is unwarranted, scientific studies have indicated that about 70-80 percent of all ship emissions happen within 216 nautical miles of land, and that ship particulate matter can remain in the atmosphere for weeks and travel hundreds to thousands of kilometers in the air.  Moreover, despite the current economic downturn, shipping growth rates will undoubtedly continue at historic levels after this period, bringing increased levels of harmful air pollution.  Therefore, based on our knowledge of ship emissions location and transmission as well as expected emission growth levels from ships, the U.S./Canada ECA proposal is justified and represents sound public policy.   

For years some states severely impacted by ocean-going vessel emissions, such as California, have independently sought to establish applicable air emissions regulations as federal and international authorities have been remiss.  However, with the federal court’s overturning of CARB’s 2005 auxiliary engine rule and Pacific Merchant Shipping Association’s recent court challenge to the agency’s revised 2009 fuel rule, the possibility of a health protective California regulation remains in question.  Additionally, a rule governing vessel emissions out to only 3 nautical miles is insufficient for many states, including California.  Significantly more is required to protect coastal and even inland residents who continue to suffer and die while waiting for a viable solution. 

The time for us all to get behind the strong US/Canada ECA proposal is now.


John Kaltenstein,
18th May 2009 20:24 GMT

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