ECAs (Emission Control Areas) are designated areas where the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has imposed stricter limits on sulphur emissions from shipping compared to the limits on the high seas.

4 ECAs have been designated through the IMO:

  • Baltic Sea (2006)
  • North Sea and English Channel (2007)
  • North American (US and Canada) Emission Control Area (from Aug 2012)
  • Carribean (US Puerto Rico area) from Jan 2014

Further ECAs and sulphur regulated areas are expected to be put in place within the next 5 years, and the sulphur emission limits for the ECA’s will be lowered over time.

The specific regulations are as follows:

Emission Controlled Area (ECA)

Current limit (Jan 1 2015)          0.10% S      (1000 ppm)

Globally (on the open seas)

Current limit                   3.50% S            (35’000 ppm)
1 Jan 2020/2025            0.50% S            (5000 ppm)

In addition to the ECA zones comes special regulatory measures for all EU and Turkish ports as well as California that requires all vessels to use even cleaner ultra low-sulphur fuel.

In December 2015, China’s Ministry of Transport announced the creation of three domestic emission control areas; the Yangtze River Delta Area, the Pearl River Delta Area, and the Bohai Sea Area. Mandatory sulphur level requirements will take effect in these areas as of 1 January 2017, introducing a limit of 0.5% sulphur in fuel used. As part of the gradual implementation of this program, all vessels are since April 1 2016 required to use fuel with max 0.5% sulphur at berth in the core ports of the Yangtze River Delta Emission Control Area (Shanghai, Ningbo-Zhoushan, Suzhou, and Nantong). 

A proactive stance

Having operated with our own voluntary low sulphur policy of 1,5% sulphur for over ten years, our experience is now proving extremely helpful. To ensure that we can achieve full compliance in a way that minimises the cost impact for our customers, WWL is taking a four stream approach, investigating a range of solutions.

<0.5% Bunker Oil
WWL believes that <0.5% low sulphur bunker oil could become a viable longterm solution to sulphur regulation compliance. As an upstream solution, the sulphur is taken care of at source.

Other Energy Sources
Alternative energy sources will be explored through research and development projects. WWL is working together with its owners to explore the possibilities presented by alternatives such as LNG, biodiesel, solar power and a host of other energy sources. The objective is to develop a potential competitive advantage in terms of price stability, availability and the possibility of decoupling from fossil fuels in the future.

Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems
In line with our continuous effort to explore new technology, WWL is conducting a pilot project on board one of our vessels in order to evaluate the design, technical, operational, safety, environmental and regulatory matters related to scrubber installations. 

Four of the post-panamax HERO vessels that are to be delivered to WWL in 2015-2016 will be equipped with scrubbers. However, this is not a solution that is suitable for all vessels.

The immediately available route to compliance is to switch to distillate fuel, such as Marine Gas Oil (MGO). The use of distillate requires some onboard adjustments, albeit relatively minor ones. The bigger issue concerns the medium to long-term pricing and availability of distillate fuels. MGO has over the past year been 50% more expensive than ordinary bunker.