International Maritime Organization Hits and Misses on Ship Pollution

International Maritime Organization Hits and Misses on Ship Pollution

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At key meeting in London this week, Emission Control Area for Canada and U.S. moves forward, but little progress is made on greenhouse gas emissions from ships

LONDON — The International Maritime Organization (IMO) today approved a proposal to designate an Emission Control Area for coastal waters of the United States and Canada. Vessels entering this protected zone would have to use cleaner fuel and install advanced technology to reduce smog-forming emissions. Friends of the Earth was instrumental in extending the boundaries of the zone to include Hawaii and parts of Alaska. Government analyses indicate the new protections will substantially benefit public health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has stated that, by 2020, the protections will prevent up to 14,000 premature mortalities, 4,800 hospital admissions, 9,300 cases of acute bronchitis, and 4,900,000 instances of acute respiratory symptoms. The cost-benefit ratio for the proposal is 9 to 1 even at the 200 nautical mile border to which the protected zone extends. The proposal is now set for adoption by the IMO in March 2010. “The IMO has moved one major step closer to securing protections against shipping pollution that Americans and Canadians so desperately need,” said John Kaltenstein, Clean Vessels Program Manager at Friends of the Earth. “After many years of demanding more stringent ship pollution measures, at long last they are in sight.” Nevertheless, progress was limited on reducing greenhouse gas from international shipping. This week’s IMO meeting resulted in little more than another roadmap on the issue, extending the organization’s already 12-year-long attempt to regulate greenhouse gases from ships. The current roadmap envisions no final decision before late 2011 at the earliest. “The IMO’s failure to take substantive action this week shows that that it may be incapable of tackling this problem,” Kaltenstein said. “Patience with the IMO is fast disappearing since it has still not called for the application of existing shipping design and operational measures that could reduce the sector’s carbon footprint by 20 percent at no cost to industry, and since no serious discussion was given to market-based mechanisms, such as a bunker levy, which can provide significant environmental benefits.” More information about the proposed Emission Control Area can be found at


Friends of the Earth ( is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world.

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