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North American Emission Control Area (ECA)

Air pollution from ships has decreased with the adoption of amendments to MARPOL Annex VI (Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL convention) which entered into force on July 1, 2010.  The revised Annex VI allows for the establishment of Emission Control Areas (ECAs) to be designated for SOx and particulate matter, or NOx, or all three types of emissions from ships.

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Geographic Distribution of the NA ECA

The North American ECA was adopted by IMO in March 2010 and came into force on August 1, 2012. With limited exceptions all vessels that operate in the North American ECA are required to be in compliance with the Annex VI ECA fuel oil sulfur standard.

Fuel Sulfur Standard (max % by weight)

Global Sulfur Cap

ECA Sulfur Cap

On and after Jan. 1, 2012


On and after Aug 1, 2012


On and after Jan. 1, 2020


On and after Jan. 1, 2015


Enforcement in Canada

On May 8, 2013, Canadian Minister of Transport announced that the Government of Canada is adopting strict environmental standards to reduce air emissions from ships navigating in Canadian waters. These changes will align Canada’s air emissions standards with the United States. They have also set new Canadian standards for environmental protection in areas such as emission standards, energy efficiency requirements, greywater discharges, and transfers of oil between tankers. Transport Canada has posted new Ship Safety Bulletins (SSB) that further explain the new regulation amendments in greater detail. Each bulletin touches on a different amendment with the last one also providing an overview of the others:

SSB 01/2013: Compliance with Energy Efficiency Standards – Provides guidance on determining compliance with energy efficiency standards.

SSB 02/2013: Proposing Alternative Compliance Options – Provides information on proposing alternative compliance regimes to Transport Canada for the North American Emission Control Area (NA-ECA) standards.

SSB 03/2013: Fleet Averaging Plans and Annual Reporting – Provides information on planning and reporting the averaged air emissions over a fleet of Canadian vessels voyaging in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence waters.

SSB 04/2013: Reporting when Compliant Fuel is Unavailable – Provides information on reporting requirements when compliant fuel oil is unavailable.

SSB 05/2013: Compliance with Air Emissions Standards – Provides information on emission standards for sulfur oxides and determining compliance in sulfur content in fuel, sulfur dioxide to carbon dioxide ratio, and nitrogen oxides.

SSB 06/2013: Ship to Ship Transfers of Oils and Greywater – Provides an overview of all the above amendments as well as information pertaining to ship to ship oil transfers and greywater discharge.

Enforcement in the United States

The USCG and the EPA have entered into an agreement assigning roles for the enforcement of the ECA.  The USCG will board ships to confirm compliance.  The EPA and USCG will share responsibilities for investigating non-compliance and subsequent enforcement actions. 

On June 26, 2012, the EPA approved its “Interim Guidance on the Non-Availability of Compliant Fuel Oil for the North American Emission Control Area”.  This document addresses how the US will implement fuel oil availability provisions for ship owners and operators unable to obtain fuel oil that meets the fuel oil sulfur standards of the ECA.

EPA "Interim Guidance on the Non-Availability of Compliant Fuel Oil for the North American Emission Control Area"

On July 25, 2012, the USCG approved CG-CVC Policy Letter 12-04 “Guidelines for Compliance and Enforcement of the Emission Control Areas Established Within the United States Jurisdiction As Designated In MARPOL Annex VI Regulation 14”.  At the same time the USCG released its “ECA Job Aid” providing guidance to boarding officers who will inspect for compliance with the ECA.

CG-CVC Policy Letter 12-04 Guidelines for Compliance and Enforcement of the Emission Control

ECA Job Aid

Vessels that do not switch over and use compliant fuels prior to entry into the ECA are required to submit a Fuel Oil Non-Availability Report (FONAR) to document non-compliance and to explain the circumstances of why they have chosen not to use compliant fuel. The FONAR must be completed online through the EPA Central Data Exchange (CDX) website FOND portal.

North American Emission Control Area Electronic Fuel Oil Non-Availability Disclosure Portal (FOND) Instructions

Helpful IMO Documents and Links