New bill passed cuts toxic ship pollution, praised by leading environmental group

Washington, D.C The U.S,. Senate passed (June 27,2008), by unanimous consent, legislation that will allow the U.S. to join an international treaty that could dramatically cut ocean ship pollution that causes tens of thousands of global deaths annually. “The Marine Pollution Prevention Act of 2008” (H.R. 802), was passed overwhelmingly by the U.S. House of Representatives last year.

“This action could be a sea change that ultimately helps steer us to cleaner, healthier air for the millions of Americans harmed by toxic air pollution from U.S. and foreign-flagged ships,” said Janea Scott, a senior attorney for Environmental Defense Fund based in Los Angeles. “This action will help our country secure protective international standards for large ocean-going ships. We urge our government to immediately complete the critical process of ratifying the MARPOL treaty.”

Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, commonly known as “MARPOL,” is an international treaty that governs air pollution from large ocean-going ships.

Large ocean-going ships are a major source of soot, sulfur dioxide and smog-forming pollution that are associated with premature deaths, hospital visits, and asthma attacks that exact a heavy toll on human health for millions of Americans. About ninety percent of the ships that dock at U.S. ports are foreign-flagged international vessels.

Shipping-related soot emissions contribute to approximately 60,000 global deaths annually, with impacts concentrated in coastal regions on major trade routes.

The U.S. government has proposed protective measures for international adoption as part of the MARPOL treaty that would achieve vital progress in reducing the high emissions from these ships. This clean air blueprint will be considered at a key meeting of the International Maritime Organization in October.