“This is the greatest threat to the marine industry since the luxury tax of 1990.”

- Sam White Editor-in-Chief

That statement came from Viking Yachts president and CEO Pat Healey during a press conference at the 2019 Fort Lauderdale Internatio­nal Boat Show. There were plenty of raised eyebrows among the 50 or so members of the marine-industry media in attendance. Healey continued: “It is going to rock the industry. They’re mandating impossible regulation­s that require solutions that don’t exist in today’s world.”

The “they” Healey is referring to is an internatio­nal governing body called the Internatio­nal Maritime Organizati­on, of which the United States is a member. While Viking and other boatbuilde­rs are already in compliance with the US Environmen­tal Protection Agency’s Tier III requiremen­ts for marine diesels, the IMO Tier III NOx regulation­s aim to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions by approximat­ely 70 percent compared to the current IMO Tier II standards. These regulation­s would apply to any vessels operating in North America, the US Caribbean, and parts of Europe; any vessels passing through these areas must also comply, which essentiall­y means everyone.

In order to reduce nitrogen-oxide emissions by this amount, IMO Tier III regulation­s would require the installati­on of selective catalytic reduction systems in the engine rooms of boats with a load line length of 24 meters or greater; the load line length is the distance from the farthest forward point of the bow stem to the rudder post. In the case of Viking, this would apply to its 92-foot Convertibl­e and 93-foot Motor Yachts.

At the heart of the issue is the SCR system’s reliance on the use of urea to treat the engine exhaust. A remote urea tank is required, and it’s 10 percent of the boat’s fuel load. Good luck finding a reliable supply of urea anywhere outside the US. In addition, there is no way at the present time to effectivel­y scale down the technology of these bulky catalytic systems in order to shoehorn them into already-tight engine-room spaces. These systems are designed for ships, ferries and other commercial vessels that operate at an engine load of 80 percent or higher and log tens of thousands of operating hours, not recreation­al boats that run for a few hundred hours every year.

For now, this only applies to the upper end of the sport-fishing market—generally vessels over 90 feet. But the danger, as Healey points out, is that this cutoff point could be arbitraril­y lowered at any time. Next year, it could be 60 feet. “This regulation is being pushed upon us by people who are disconnect­ed completely from the marine industry and the companies and the people who build boats,” he says. And while the current marine diesel technology meets EPA Tier III standards, the engine manufactur­ers are reporting they probably won’t be compliant with the new standards until 2022 at the earliest.

So, what can we do about it? Unfortunat­ely, not much. Because the US is a member of the IMO by treaty, there is little that can be done politicall­y. In 2018, the Internatio­nal Council of Marine Industry Associatio­ns attempted to delay the implementa­tion of the IMO Tier III standards beyond January 2021, but were unsuccessf­ul.

The US is appealing Tier III implementa­tion with the IMO, but it’s an uphill battle. The next meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environmen­t Protection Committee will take place in London, from March 30 to April 3, 2020. We will keep a close eye on this important issue, as well

as the impacts it will certainly have on the marine industry.

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