Forthcoming ECAs – a new approach to emissions monitoring needed
Flag and Port State Control (PSC) authorities will need new tools to monitor compliance with the next wave of Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) if minimum standards are to be met, according to emissions management start-up, SeaARCTOS.
Affecting cruise ships, as well as other vessel types, the Mediterranean Sea will join the world’s other designated ECAs on 1st May, 2025, requiring owners and operators to switch from high to low sulphur fuel before passing Gibraltar, Suez and the Bosporus.
Proposals discussed at the recent IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 80) meeting would see a Northeast Atlantic ECA link the Mediterranean ECA with those already established in the English Channel, North Sea and Baltic Sea.
Another plan for a Canadian Arctic ECA would extend from the northern limits of the North American ECA effectively encompassing the continent.
The additional European ECA would cover the majority of Europe’s waters requiring a vessel sailing into the Mediterranean Sea from the Suez Canal bound for a North European port to be compliant for the whole section of the voyage.
The pressure on vessel operators to demonstrate fuel switches to inspecting authorities before entering and after exiting these ECA zones will increase considerably. So will the burden of compliance monitoring by PSC whose job it is to enforce the regulation.
SeaARCTOS estimated that the Med ECA alone will impact 700,000 transits a year, but inspection and enforcement could be limited to around 10% of vessels and only on the inbound leg.
The company further believed that as attention had shifted towards CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases, while sulphur no longer commanded the attention it deserves.
In April this year, SeaARCTOS completed over 20,000 hours of real time testing on its Arctos-1 stack-mounted sensor gathering data from two major fleets. Type Approval in Principle was awarded by Lloyd’s Register (LR).
ARCTOS-1 captures data directly from the engine and transmits it to the cloud independent of the ship’s communications system. The system is entirely self-contained, powered by waste heat from the stack and gives consistently accurate readings of fuel switches when ships enter or exit ECAs.
“There is a risk that as the industry focuses on carbon, that sulphur emissions fall into the background, but they continue to present a serious public health risk and a compliance challenge,” explained Michael Kougellis, SeaARCTOS CEO.
“Growth in the ECA network means that demand for emissions monitoring and compliance management will continue to increase, requiring a solution the industry and governments can benefit from.”
ARCTOS-1 units are available by subscription per vessel per day, there is no hardware involved, no communications costs or other hidden charges, the company claimed.
The ability to remotely monitor the time and position of fuel switches also has benefits for owners and charterers, since it supports best practice on fuel management and ESG strategies. Future development of the sensor will include reporting emissions of NOx and CO2, as well as measurement of methane slip in LNG as a fuel.
At MEPC 80, the IMO also adopted a revised greenhouse gas strategy.
The new targets include a 20% reduction in emissions by 2030, a 70% reduction by 2040 (compared to 2008 levels), and the ultimate goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
New regulations are expected to enter into force around mid-2027.
In addition, guidelines for lifecycle assessment of marine Fuels were adopted, amendments to the Data Collection System (DCS) requiring more detailed data on fuel consumption were also adopted, as was the approval for circular setting out rules for application of biofuels under the DCS and Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII).
MEPC 80 also adopted amendments to the Ballast Water Management Convention (BWMC) concerning the form of the Ballast Water Record Book. The aim is to improve the recording and provide clarity on information concerning ballast water operations that would be recorded by ships.
The amendments will enter into force on 1st February, 2025.
The revised ‘Guidelines for the Control and Management of Ship’s Biofouling to Minimise the Transfer of Invasive Aquatic Species’ was adopted. The guidelines provide recommendations on in-water inspections with a focus on the quantitative assessment of biofouling using a biofouling rating number, as well as on observations of the anti-fouling system condition.
MEPC 80 approved amendments to MARPOL Annex VI clarifying the definition of fuel oil and defining gas fuels consistent with the IGF Code. The amendments also state that all fuels require a bunker delivery note, but gas fuels and low-flashpoint fuels are not required to provide information on density, sulphur content and flashpoint, and are also not required to provide a sampling point.
Recognising the need for alternative methods to comply with the standards set forth in Regulation 16 of MARPOL Annex VI on shipboard incineration, MEPC 80 adopted the ‘Guidelines for Thermal Waste Treatment Devices’.
The guidelines are technology-neutral and goal-based, and may be applied to any thermal waste treatment device using, for example, gasification, hydrothermal carbonisation, pyrolysis or plasma, or other thermal means for the disposal of waste generated on board, as an alternative to conventional incinerators.
MEPC 80 also agreed on a correction of the comparison of tank sizes for dual fuel engines in the EEDI survey and certification guidelines. For gas fuel, the reference to ‘tank filling’ is replaced by a reference to ‘tank loading limit in the IGF and/or IGC Codes’.
Also adopted was the revised ‘Guidelines on the Shaft/Engine Power Limitation System to Comply with the EEXI Requirements and Use of a Power Reserve’ setting out uniform reporting requirements, and a format for reporting on the use of a power reserve to the administration.
MEPC 80 agreed on a plan for reviewing the short-term GHG reduction measures, the CII and EEXI.