United States: Shipping Fuels: New Sulfur Content Requirements For US Caribbean Waters

Cruise ships, tankers and other large ocean-going vessels entering coastal waters near Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands face a new regulatory challenge. Starting in January 2014, those ships are required to use fuel with a sulfur content of just 1 per cent, or 10,000 parts per million (ppm), which is significantly lower than what those ships are currently required to use.

The requirements grow even stricter in January 2015. At that time, ships in this area will be required to use fuel with a sulfur content of just 0.1 per cent, or 1,000 ppm. The new fuel requirements are intended to reduce air emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. They mirror requirements already in effect for other US waters, such as along the coasts of the continental United States. Cruise and shipping lines that have already prepared their fleets to use low sulfur fuel may not be affected by the new Caribbean area requirements, but companies that have not made such changes may face significant compliance costs for their Caribbean-area vessels.

The new requirements arise under Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, better known as the MARPOL convention, and the US Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS). Failure to comply with the new requirements can subject ship owners and operators to criminal and civil penalties. Notably, the new requirements take effect at a time when environmental authorities in the eastern United States are under increasing pressure to find new ways of reducing sulfur dioxide and particulate matter emissions. Thus, 2014 may see increased fuel-related enforcement activity, not simply near Puerto Rico, but all along the eastern coast of the United States.

The MARPOL Convention's Fuel Requirements

The MARPOL convention is an agreement among roughly 150 countries to control pollution from ships. The convention is overseen by the International Maritime Organization, but is enforced by individual parties to the convention, such as the United States. Additionally, the United States has enacted APPS, 42 U.S.C. Section 1901 et seq., which makes it unlawful to violate the MARPOL convention within US controlled waters, including but not limited to waters around Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and waters up to 200 nautical miles from the coasts of the continental United States.

Annex VI to the MARPOL convention governs air pollution. Among its many provisions is Regulation 14, which prohibits ships from using fuels that have a sulfur content higher than the limits found in Regulation 14.

Regulation 14 contains two such limits, one applies throughout the world and the other applies only in designated emission control areas (ECAs). The global limit on sulfur content is currently 3.5 per cent, or 35,000 ppm, but the ECA limit is 1 per cent, or 10,000 ppm. The ECA limit will be reduced even lower, to 0.1 per cent, or 1,000 ppm, in January 2015.

The US Caribbean Sea ECA

Until recently, there were just three ECAs: the Baltic Sea ECA, the North Sea ECA and the North American ECA, which extends up to 200 nautical miles from the coasts of the continental United States and Canada. Starting in January 2014, the newly designated US Caribbean Sea ECA will come into effect. This new ECA covers an irregularly shaped area of ocean that extends up to 50 nautical miles from Puerto Rico. A drawing of the boundaries can be found at www.epa.gov/otaq/regs/nonroad/marine/ci/420f11024.pdf.

Once the new ECA takes effect, ships entering the ECA will be subject to the fuel requirements that apply there.

Compliance Options

The most obvious way to comply with the new requirements is to either use ECA compliant fuel (such as natural gas) at all times, or to switch to that fuel when entering an ECA. But ship owners should be aware of two alternative compliance options that may be less costly or less burdensome in some situations. First, Annex VI Regulation 4 allows the use of alternative compliance measures (such as exhaust gas scrubbers) provided the ship's home country certifies that those alternative measures "are at least as effective in terms of emissions reductions" as using ECA-compliant fuels.

Second, Annex VI Regulation 3 provides that ships may be exempted from the fuel sulfur content requirements for a period of 18 months, provided they obtain a special permit from their home country. The special permit can, however, only be granted where the exempted ship (or ships) will participate in "trials for the development of ship emission reduction and control technologies and engine design programmes," and where requiring compliance with Regulation 14 could actually impede such research.


In the new US Caribbean Sea ECA and the US portions of the existing North American ECA, the MARPOL Convention and APPS are enforced by two US agencies: the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Coast Guard. These agencies are authorised to board ships to take fuel samples. They are also authorised to take fuel samples from fueling stations and to obtain the fueling records that all large vessel operators are required to maintain. If the Coast Guard finds violations on a ship, it is authorised to detain it, even if it is a non-US ship.

MARPOL Annex VI violations are punishable by civil penalties of up to US$25,000 per day, per violation. The Coast Guard and the EPA are authorised to impose those penalties through an administrative hearing process and to enforce the penalties in a civil collection action in US courts. The agencies can also bring a criminal penalty proceeding in the US courts against anyone who knowingly commits a violation of the applicable requirements.

APPS also contains a citizen suit provision under which any person adversely affected by an ongoing MARPOL convention violation can bring an action against the alleged violator. The citizen suit provision does not, however, authorise civil penalties, which means that the only type of relief that might be available in such an action would be injunctive relief (to compel compliance), plus attorneys' fees and costs.

As the low sulfur fuel requirements take effect in the new US Caribbean Sea ECA, the EPA may also increase its fuel-related enforcement activity in the existing North American ECA. This is because, in certain coastal US areas, such as around New York City, other types of sources have already largely reduced their sulfur dioxide and particulate matter emissions. With those other sources already largely controlled, ocean-going vessels may become an increasingly attractive target for air quality enforcement officials.

Shipping companies concerned about potential enforcement should ensure they are familiar with the applicable Annex VI requirements, including the applicable recordkeeping requirements. They should also consider the alternative compliance options mentioned above.

Finally, the EPA has indicated that it may seek reduced penalties for fuel-related violations where the shipping company demonstrates that it was unable to purchase ECA-compliant fuel despite diligent efforts to do so. To qualify for such consideration, ship owners must not only use their best efforts to purchase low sulfur fuel, they must also notify the United States of their efforts before entering the ECA. They should also undertake other efforts to reduce emissions. The EPA has published guidance about this topic, which can be found at www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/policies/civil/caa/mobile/finalfuelavailabilityguidance-0626.pdf .

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions