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Experts Agree International Emission Control Area Is the Future

In February 2019, the Transport Planning Research Institute of China’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) shared the findings of a feasibility study on how to design and apply for an Emission Control Area (ECA) that will meet the requirements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). EF China supported the study. Officials and experts from MOT’s Maritime Safety Administration and Waterway Transport Administration, the Air Pollution Control Department of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), Shenzhen’s local Bureau of Ecology and Environment, Tsinghua University, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation found the research valuable to inform policymaking on vessel emission control, which is commonly recognized as instrumental in achieving immediate air quality improvements and more substantial air targets in the long run. Participants of the meeting agreed that it is time for China to put an IMO-designated ECA on its agenda.


ECA proves to be an effective tool to cut down air pollutant emissions from vessels. There are currently four IMO-approved ECAs in the world that enforce more stringent emission standards for sulfur dioxides and nitrate dioxides. In order to assess the feasibility of setting an ECA along China’s coastal waters, starting from 2012, EF China funded research on vessel emissions inventory, marine fuel oil supply, and vessel emissions control roadmaps that aim to shed light on policy design for emission reductions. After that, EF China launched a study in 2017 that focused on different ECA scenarios in China to evaluate its impacts on vessel emissions, air quality, public health, and regional economy. MOT’s Transport Planning Research Institute led the research, in collaboration with the Waterway Transport Research Institute, MEE’s Vehicle Emission Control Center, Tsinghua University, and the International Council on Clean Transportation. The Natural Resource Defense Council also provided technical support. The findings highlighted how urgent and feasible it is for China to transit from its current domestic emission control area policy toward an IMO-designated version. 

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