At Kuehne + Nagel Seafreight, we are committed to sustainable actions along your supply chain, which is why we support regulations that promote environmental initiatives for sustainable shipping and the control of the environmental footprint. Our commitment extends to our customers and service providers by providing CO2 offsetting solutions and informing you about regulations.

Explanation of the ECA’s

Besides the upcoming global IMO 2020 0.5% sulphur cap, the shipping industry also has to deal with the existing 0.1% sulphur cap in designated Emission Control Areas (ECAs) since January 2015. This regulation came into effect under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL Annex VI) which regulates, amongst others, emissions of Sulphur Oxides (SOx).

Sulphur Dioxide (SOx) is a toxic gas that arises while burning fossil-fuel. It causes respiratory implications and acid rain.

MARPOL stated that ships sailing in designated ECAs must stop burning Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) with high sulphur content. The new energy source to power these ships is an Ultra Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (ULSFO) with a maximum sulphur content of 0.1%, which is also one of the options for shippers to comply with the IMO 2020 regulation. The ECA’s are mainly designated on the basis of reducing sulphur oxide emissions coming from the marine vessels; however, MARPOL extends this environmental initiative to nitrogen oxides (NOx), Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) emissions as well.

Main advantages gained from low sulphur limits

The objective of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to establish the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) was to protect marine life from harmful substances and pollutants such as sulphur dioxide. 

Due to its high pollutant content, sulphur dioxide has several negative effects on human health and maritime life. High concentrations of SO2 can have effects ranging from skin irritation to lung dysfunction. It also interferes with physical activity. The lower sulphur limit leads to a direct improvement in air quality, especially in densely populated coastal regions, and to a reduction in the environmental impact of container shipping.

Location of the ECA’s

The Emission Control Areas established under MARPOL Annex VI for SOx are:

  • Baltic Sea area
  • North Sea area
  • United States Caribbean Sea area (around Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands) 
  • North American area (covering designated Pacific and Atlantic coastal areas of the United States and Canada, including Hawaii)

The locations and numbers of the ECA’s are constantly increasing. Also, several countries and emerging economies have already designated their water territory as part of the ECAs in order to positively impact shipping emissions, such as China, Turkey and Australia.



Emission Control Areas