Reducing black carbon from ports and marine vessels


The overall objective of this workstream is to address the area of ports and marine vessels  where there is significant need and opportunity for improved climate and health benefits through major black carbon reductions from heavy-duty diesels.

Ports and marine vessels are one of the largest sources of diesel particulate matter. To successfully reduce emissions, a multi-pronged approach that addresses the ships themselves as well as operations at ports is required. Key barriers to progress include: poor data on baseline emissions and resulting health and climate impacts at local, regional and global scales; lack of a comprehensive assessment of control technologies and measures, especially for ocean going vessels; and poor capacity for policy implementation, particularly at emerging ports, compounded by overlapping, fragmented and sometimes conflicting jurisdictions. The objective of this project is to directly address these obstacles through a series of activities that develop, compile and share information, provide real-world testing of emissions controls on in-use marine vessels, and train stakeholders. The end result is major contribution to policy-relevant knowledge supporting emissions controls across multiple venues. The CCAC, with a mix of committed state and expert non-state partners, offers an ideal venue to coordinate the project.


Reduce approximately 299 thousand metric tons of fine particles and 150 thousand metric tons of black carbon (BC) emissions from marine vessels and heavy-duty vehicles through promoting cleaner fuels and vehicles policies at ports and in marine vessels operating on in-land waterways, along coastal areas, and in the Arctic.


The maritime sector faces unique challenges. Ports around the world are expanding their capacity with many looking to double and triple their throughput over the next ten to fifteen years. This will require more cargo handling equipment, trucks, rail and vessel capacity, all contributing to increased emissions. Lacking additional controls, it is estimated that global BC emissions from marine vessels may more than quintuple from 2004 to 2050, to a total of more than 744,000 tons BC, due to increased shipping demand, with a growing share emitted within the Arctic due to vessel diversion.10 Despite progress in some areas, best practices for PM/BC control from marine sources are slow to develop. Key barriers to progress include: poor data on baseline emissions and resulting health and climate impacts at local, regional and global scales; lack of a comprehensive assessment of control technologies and measures, especially for ocean going vessels; and poor capacity for policy implementation, particularly at emerging ports which is compounded by overlapping, fragmented and sometimes conflicting jurisdiction hindering coordinated policy making.

What We're Doing

A variety of local, national, regional, and international policies hold the potential to control black carbon emissions from the maritime sector. At the local level, progressive ports such as the Port of Rotterdam and the San Pedro Bay Ports in Southern California have adopted comprehensive clean ports programs to control air pollution and other environmental impacts from operations. These programs include a variety of PM and BC mitigation measures including diesel engine retrofit, replacement, and repower; local fuel incentives for fuel switching and speed reduction; development of infrastructure to support alternative fuel use; and the development of recognition programs for operators and terminals making extra efforts to reduce emissions. Cold ironing (shore power) is another key intervention for reducing marine-side PM/BC emissions at ports, which compliments landside emissions reduction. An evaluation process to determine the best methods for each port will involve stakeholder consultations, evaluation of emissions & any ongoing interventions as well as assessment of viable best practices/technology for a given country.

Similarly, national, regional, and international policies to reduce BC emissions from domestic navigation and international shipping are in various stages of development. These include national engine PM standards for smaller vessels used for domestic navigation (C1/C1 engines); international engine standards for large vessels adopted by the IMO; local, regional, and global fuel sulphur requirements; and, more speculatively, regional emission control policies to protect particularly sensitive areas such as the Arctic.

Although the removal of sulfur from fossil fuels can be linked with a reduction in refraction and shading (atmospheric cooling), black carbon is the only aerosol that produces a warming effect (20-yr GWP of 3,200). The IMO has already set progressively stricter fuel sulfur standards which will facilitate the use of technologies such as diesel particulate filters, however there are other mechanisms available for the reduction of BC including seawater scrubbers, slow steaming, biodiesel and LNG. It is important to note not only the technology impairment of high sulfur fuels but also auxiliary impacts of sulfur fine particles, such as acid rain leading to regional acidification of water bodies and region haze. Since IMO continues to progress its work on marine BC emissions, the lead partners anticipate significant opportunities to collaborate on research. IMO Secretariat will be invited to each marine BC technical workshop, and project documentation, including meeting notes, consultant reports, and key deliverables (i.e. refined inventory and technology performance database), will be shared with Secretariat staff upon completion. It is also anticipated that CCAC member nations will submit working papers summarizing project findings directly to the IMO’s environment committee.

Meanwhile, activities in the Ports area support efforts in four CCAC country ports (“implementing ports”) to lead their respective regions in developing PM/BC emission reduction strategies with support from developed CCAC country ports (“supporting ports”). The implementing ports were selected based on engagement on relevant issues (including interest in engaging with the CCAC), potential regional impact (they are key trade ports in their regions and have large potential to set off regional domino effect which in turn increases chances of ‘going to scale), contribution to local air pollution, as well as throughput and growth forecasts.

Lead Partner: A Coalition partner with an active role in coordinating, monitoring and guiding the work of an initiative.

Implementer: A Coalition partner or actor receiving Coalition funds to implement an activity or initiative.

Partners (2)

Partners (2)

Resources & tools

Activity contact

Sandra Cavalieri,
Programme Manager
secretariat [at]

Pollutants (SLCP)

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