CARB fines shippers $440,000 for ships' bunker fuel use

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | 8/13/2013

Oceangoing ships that bring containers of imports and exports in and out of the U.S. may not face the same stringent emissions standards as trucks – but that doesn’t mean the California Air Resources Board isn’t watching which fuel those ships are burning.

CARB recently fined three international shipping companies a total of $440,250 for failure to switch from bunker fuel to California-required low-sulfur marine distillate fuel.

CARB discovered that the vessel Hoegh Inchon ran its main engines on bunker fuel within regulated California waters 17 times between November 2009 and July 2011. The ship’s parent company, Hoegh Autoliners Shipping AS Co. of Oslo, Norway, was fined $299,500.

In February 2013, the Ikan Bawal was cited for failing to switch to the cleaner fuel before docking at ports in Stockton and Long Beach, CA. The ships’ owner, N.C.N. Corporation Panama, was fined $87,750.

In August 2012, authorities cited the K-Pluto vessel after it docked at the Port of Los Angeles for failing to switch to the cleaner fuel while in regulated California waters. Parent company Twin Phoenix Shipping S.A. of Singapore was fined $53,000.

CARB’s shipping regulation required all main engines, boilers and auxiliary engines on ships to use marine diesel oil with sulfur amounts at or below .5 percent. In January 2014, that standard is scheduled to require a maximum sulfur content of .1 percent.

Bunker diesel fuel reportedly has 1,800 times the sulfur content found in ultra-low-sulfur diesel used by trucks in North American.

Ships en route to California ports emit thousands of tons of diesel exhaust each year,” CARB Enforcement Chief Jim Ryden said in a news release. “Our regulation requiring oceangoing vessels to switch to cleaner fuel within 24 nautical miles of our shoreline protects all California residents, especially those in port communities, from this air pollution.”

CARB inspects at least 500 ships annually to ensure proper fuel usage, record-keeping and other points of compliance, CARB’s release said. Samples of marine gas oil and marine diesel oil from the ships are removed and inspected at CARB labs.

Compliance rates with the agency’s oceangoing vessel regulation remains high, “hovering around 95 percent,” the release states.

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