AAPA Urges Swift Passage of Vessel Air Emissions Bill
The American Association of Port Authorities this week sent an urgent request to leaders of the United States Senate and leaders of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, urging them to endorse swift passage of H.R. 802, the Maritime Pollution Prevention Act, and then transmit the legislation to the President for signing by June 28.
The legislation would implement Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, more commonly known as MARPOL, and would have air quality benefits for port communities throughout the U.S. Annex VI, which is an international treaty that sets limits for oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and oxides of sulfur (SOx) from ship exhaust, is the world protocol for regulating vessel emissions.
The June 28 deadline is important because that is when Congress will take a one-week recess in connection with the State Work Period. The U.S. must pass the legislation and render its instrument of ratification at least three months in advance of the October 2008 meeting of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in order to cast its vote. If Congress and the President are unable to complete the legislation in time to provide an instrument of ratification, the U.S. will not be able to vote for changes it has long advocated to the MARPOL Annex VI treaty, likely resulting in a significant loss of international credibility.
According to AAPA President and CEO Kurt Nagle, a vote in favor of the international treaty at IMO's October assembly would cap more than a year of negotiations by the U.S. government delegation and send a message to the world that America is not content to change the actions of others without committing itself to the same changes as well.
"AAPA supports reducing air emissions in port communities, including emissions from oceangoing ships," said Mr. Nagle. "While land-based emissions and some marine emissions are the responsibility of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, AAPA believes that an international process is the most effective for vessels, the majority of which are flagged in countries other than the U.S."
MARPOL Annex VI entered into force on May 19, 2005, and has remained unchanged ever since. However, the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee is expected to approve sweeping changes to Annex VI at its October meeting in London.
Though not yet party to the annex, the U.S. delegation played a lead role in negotiating the suite of amendments that was given preliminary approval at the Committee's last meeting, which was held in late March and early April of 2008.
On April 6, 2006, the Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification of the treaty, a step which AAPA applauded.