Policy update

Action plan for establishing China’s national emission control area

In December 2018, the China Ministry of Transport released an upgraded action plan for establishing a national domestic emission control area (DECA). This action plan marks China’s ambition to keep pace with world-class environmental regulations. This policy update provides an overview of the national DECA plan and compares it to the regional DECA as well as its likely successor—International Maritime Organization’s Emission Control Areas (IMO ECA).

The national DECA expands the three regional DECAs to the entire coastline, removing regulatory inconsistencies and potentially streamlining compliance and enforcement. The sea extent of the national DECA remains at 12 nautical miles (nm), which extends to China’s territorial sea. Any further expansion of the emission control areas would be under the purview of the IMO and fall under the international ECA system. The national DECA also includes two inland waterway systems—the Yangtze River and Pearl River.

The national DECA confirms the early adoption of the IMO’s global sulfur cap of 0.5% m/m and pilots a 0.1% m/m sulfur requirement for all ships in the Yangtze and Pearl Rivers and for 12 nm around Hainan Island. In addition, it includes a revision provision that will likely expand the more stringent sulfur requirement to the entire national DECA coverage area starting in 2025. The national DECA imposes progressive regulations on ships’ tailpipe emissions of nitrogen oxides and gradually mandates ships to use of shore-side electricity (shorepower) while berthing in ports.