Several new maritime regulations entered into force on 1 January 2015.
All ships trading in designated emission control areas (ECAs) must now use onboard fuel oil containing less than 0.10% sulphur content, rather than the previous 1.00% limit, which was permitted until 31 December 2014.
The stricter rules came into effect as part of regulation 14 in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships Annex VI, which governs sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter emissions from ships.
Several ECA areas have been affected by the new regulations including the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, designated coastal area in North America and Canada; and the US Caribbean Sea area around Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.
Outside the ECAs, ships can use fuel oil with 3.5% sulphur content. This limit will decrease to 0.50% m/m on and after 1 January 2020, pending a 2018 review, which will look at the availability of the required fuel oil. Depending on the outcome of the review, this date could be deferred to 1 January 2025.
Ships may also meet the SOx requirements by using gas as a fuel, or other approved methods, such as exhaust gas cleaning systems.
Mandatory requirements for passenger muster drills onboard cruise ships sailing international voyages lasting more than 24 hours also came into effect on 1 January.
The amended regulation III/19 in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) was adopted in 2013 in the wake of the Costa Concordia incident, to ensure that passengers undergo detailed safety briefings and drills, including mustering at the lifeboat stations, before the ship departs or immediately on departure. Previously, the requirement was for the muster of passengers to take place within 24 hours of their embarkation.
Further SOLAS amendments entering into force address enclosed-space entry and rescue drills and the code for recognized organizations.
Operators must also carry out enclosed-space entry and rescue drills for crew members at least once every two months, as part of an amendment to SOLAS regulation III/19.
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