California passes strict shipping pollution laws

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Californian environmental regulators have approved stringent guidelines aimed at forcing ocean-going vessels visiting the state’s ports to use cleaner fuel, a statement said Friday.

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) said the new rules would force vessels such as cruiseliners, oil tankers, and container ships passing within 24 nautical miles of the state’s coastline to operate on low-sulfur diesel rather than dirtier oil known as bunker fuel.

CARB said the new regulations were the world’s toughest maritime pollution laws and would reduce cancer rates and premature deaths associated with pollution near seaports and trade corridors along California’s coast.

Around 2,000 ocean-going vessels visiting California ports were likely to be affected by the new regulation, which takes effect from 2009.

“This regulation will save lives,” said Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols. “At ports and all along the California coast we will see cleaner air and better health.”

The new rules would be phased in two stages between 2009 and 2012 and would apply to both US-flagged and foreign-flagged vessels.

The board said the rule would prevent an estimated 3,600 premature deaths between 2009 and 2015, while a cancer risk associated with emissions from the vessels would be reduced by over 80 percent.

Environmentalists praised the rules.

“It is a huge victory for clean air and public health,” said Candice Kim of the Coalition for Clean Air in a statement. “Ten Californians die every day due to air pollution from ports and freight transportation.”

Shipping companies are opposed to the limits and are expected to attempt to overturn the California regulations in court, reports said.