It’s definitely a new challenge for vessel owners operating in the North American ECA to prove that they are in compliance with the ECA standards.

Jeff Lantz, Director of Standards at the US Coast Guard, talks to Venture about his team’s role in enforcing the new North American Emission Control Area (ECA ) regulations, ensuring vessel operators comply with the new stricter fuel emission controls.

On August 1, 2012, the North American Emission Control Area (ECA) entered into force. Every vessel operating within 200 nautical miles of most of the US and Canadian coastline must now use fuel oil with less than 1% sulphur. The task of ensuring that vessels comply with the new maritime legislation lies with the US Coast Guard, together with the US Environmental Protection Agency(EPA).

Jeff Lantz has worked for the US Coast Guard for over 30 years. He’s quick to praise the ECA as a step in the right direction and is proud to play a role in ‘policing’ its enforcement. “Even though it might be a bit difficult initially and a little more expensive, it’s well documented that the ECA will greatly help improve human life and the environment; it’s a good thing.”

During his career, besides writing commercial vessel, environmental, safety and security guidelines for the US maritime industry, and acting as a link between the IMO and the US maritime industry, Lantz is also responsible for reviewing ship designs to make sure they comply with marine regulations.

This experience helps him to see the implementation of the ECA through the eyes of the regulators and also of the shipping industry.

“It’s definitely a new challenge for vessel owners operating in the North American ECA to prove that they are in compliance with the ECA standards,” he admits. However, he is quick to add that it’s not difficult for organised and professional vessels and crew to show via their bunker fuel records that they have the compliant fuel on board and have used this fuel in the ECA.

The real challenge, he believes, is whether the vessels can line up the necessary fuel for their ECA passage and making sure that they have logged the necessary administration work. “And, let’s face it, the lower sulphur fuel is more expensive,” he acknowledges. Every vessel calling at US ports will be examined once a year by the US Coast Guard as a general rule, and checks will be conducted on vessels in ports to monitor their fuel logbooks.

“The vessel has to have evidence that they have the right fuel and show they switched to their lower emission fuel when they entered the ECA,” Lantz explains.

All information from vessel examinations, including ECA verification examinations, is stored in a database and used to build a track record per vessel and operator. There’s good news for vessels with an excellent track record in compliance.

“Those that have a good record may not be examined so often,” he confides. This means these vessels will face less delays. Vessels that don’t comply with the new regulations will be penalised, but the severity of the penalty, according to Lantz, depends on the particular situation.

“Sometimes things happen on vessels that are beyond control e.g. if the scrubber breaks down or maybe it wasn’t possible to obtain the eco-compliant fuel in a particular location, so we need to take this into consideration.” While the US Coast Guard will make a full report of the ECA non-compliance, the EPA will determine the action to be taken based on the circumstances.

Does this mean that there is room for excuses to evade compliance? “No, we expect all vessels to comply with the ECA. All detected violations will be included in the vessel’s and operator’s history. Vessels with a history of non-compliance will be examined more often and more closely,” he says firmly.

He believes professional shipping companies have been preparing for the ECA legislation for a long time making sure they have the right fuels on board and that their fuel switching equipment is in good order.

“Those that are more forward looking are probably better prepared but we expect all ships to comply,” he warns.

The introduction of the ECA in North American waters is just the first step towards stricter maritime regulations in this region. The US Caribbean ECA comes into effect in 2014, and by 2016, all vessels must install special equipment to reduce their NOx emissions. However, the real challenge, Lantz believes, will come on January 1, 2015 when sulphur levels in ECAs will drop to 0.1%.

“This is the one which has the industry most concerned and which everyone is talking about, especially the availability of fuel.”

1. US Coast Guard and EPA are responsible for enforcing the North American ECA regulations.

2. All vessels operating within 200 nautical miles of most of the US and Canadian coastline must switch to fuel oil with less than 1% sulphur content.

3. Vessels which violate the ECA regulations face a variety of penalties.

4. Those which breach regulations will be examined more frequently.

5. The North American ECA zone is the first step towards tighter maritime environmental controls in this region.

Jeff Lantz
Job title: Director of Commercial Regulations & Standards at the US Coast Guard
Age: 59
Family: Married, with two grown daughters Background: Joined the US Coast Guard in 1974 and moved into the marine safety programme in 1978; has held current role since 2006.What drives me: “Making sure we have the right standards in place to protect lives, property and the environment and to strike the right balance without unduly burdening the maritime industry.”
Hobbies: Golf