Assessing Emissions Cuts in North Atlantic ECA Across Varied Compliance


This study evaluates the feasibility and potential environmental benefits of establishing the North Atlantic Emission Control Area (AtlECA), aimed at reducing ship emissions in the North Atlantic Ocean. The AtlECA would enforce stringent regulations to curb sulfur oxides (SOx), fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and black carbon (BC) emissions. The geographical scope includes the territorial seas and exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Spain, Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland, with potential expansion to include the Azores, Madeira archipelagos of Portugal, and the Canary Islands of Spain. This initiative aligns with MARPOL Annex VI requirements and seeks to present compelling findings to the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), reports ICCT.


The establishment of an Emission Control Area (ECA) in the North Atlantic is crucial to mitigate maritime pollution. This study assesses the potential impacts of AtlECA designation on reducing air pollutants from shipping activities. It provides a detailed analysis of emissions reductions achievable through compliance scenarios involving distillate fuels and Tier III NOx standards for marine engines.

Emission Reduction Projections

According to our projections, implementing the AtlECA regulations could lead to substantial reductions in emissions by 2030:

  • SOx: An 82% reduction with distillate fuel compared to non-ECA scenarios.
  • PM2.5: A 64% reduction.
  • BC: A 36% reduction.
  • NOx: Depending on the application of Tier III standards, up to 71% reduction in emissions could be achieved.

Geographical Expansion Considerations

Including the full EEZs of AtlECA member states and the outermost regions like the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands is recommended. This expansion not only enhances emission control effectiveness but also integrates with existing ECAs to form a comprehensive low-emission shipping zone.

Compliance Recommendations

Based on our findings, we propose the following recommendations to AtlECA member states:

  1. Geographic Scope: Encompass the full EEZs of member states and consider including outermost regions to maximize emission reductions.
  2. Fuel Incentives: Incentivize the use of distillates over ultra-low sulfur fuel oil (ULSFO) or scrubbers for ECA compliance to achieve better air quality outcomes.
  3. Scrubber Restrictions: Restrict the use of scrubbers within AtlECA waters and ports to mitigate BC and PM emissions and prevent scrubber discharge impacts.
  4. NOx Standards: Support the adoption of Tier III NOx emission standards for newly built ships, aligning with Norway’s proposal on the “three dates criteria” under MARPOL.


The establishment of the North Atlantic Emission Control Area represents a pivotal step towards sustainable maritime practices. By implementing these recommendations, AtlECA member states can significantly reduce air pollutants, improve environmental quality, and contribute to global efforts in combating climate change.

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Source: ICCT