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North American Emissions Control Area Is Now Here

The North American Emissions Control Area ("NAECA") entered into force last August and included a one-year grace period to give the various enforcement agencies and the maritime community sufficient time to adapt to the new regulations. The grace period ended on August 1, 2012.

The NAECA covers nearly all coastal waters of the United States and Canada out to 200 nautical miles from their coasts. A chart of the area concerned is found below:

Within the ECA, ships and yachts of 400 gross tons and above are required to reduce harmful air emissions by adopting one of three approved alternatives:

1. Use fuel with a sulfur content that does not exceed 1.0 %;

2. Utilize an exhaust gas cleaning system approved by its flag administration in accordance with IMO guidelines; or

3. Adopt any other technological method that is verifiable, enforceable, and has been approved by its flag administration in accordance with IMO guidelines.

Where applicable, vessels that burn more than one type of fuel must maintain detailed records regarding fuel changeovers. All vessels must continue the current requirement of retaining bunker delivery notes and samples. Beginning on January 1, 1015, the maximum sulfur content in fuel oil will lower to 0.1%. Vessels that operate predominately in coastal and inland areas of this area will potentially incur the most added costs, as those vessels will constantly operate within the NAECA.

An issue of importance is that ECA-compliant fuel will generally need to be obtained by a vessel prior to sailing for an NAECA port. This is because the obligation to utilize the low-sulfur oil arises when the vessel comes within 200 nautical miles of the NAECA. There have been numerous commentaries questioning the availability of NAECA-compliant fuel outside of the NAECA. Some suggest that vessels will have to carry a certain quantity of ECA-compliant fuel to enter the NAECA; others suggest vessels will have to divert at considerable expense and delay.

There is also some controversy, as an attempt has been made by foreign-flagged cruise ships that operate out of the NAECA. They state that they deserve a modification to the rules or some type of dispensation, as they spend a large percentage of their time underway within the NAECA. To date, such requests have been unanswered by the regulatory authorities.

I have a copy of a report from The Triton magazine related to the affect of the NAECA on yachts. If you are interested in receiving a scanned copy of this article or wish to contact me, you may do so by writing to me at or


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