Beginning in May 2021, California Air Resources Board (“CARB”) enforcement staff will begin additional analysis of fuel samples taken during ocean-going vessel inspections. CARB is seeking to improve compliance due to changing international regulatory sulfur limits, which has created situations where a vessel’s fuel may meet international and California regulatory sulfur limits, but not meet distillate grade fuel standards, as required by California law.

CARB believes the concern caused by the differing regulatory limits is significant because “the use of distillate fuel vs. lower sulfur residual grade fuel reduces the formation of directly emitted particulate from diesel engines considerably.” CARB argues that by administering the additional level of scrutiny, it will:

  • Clearly identify non-compliant vessels that are operating on contaminated fuels that may meet the sulfur limit as perhaps a residual grade ultra-low sulfur fuel oil would, but not meet the strict determination of a distillate grade fuel, as specified in the regulation.
  • Eliminate excess ash particulate emissions that affect disadvantaged communities in and around California ports.
  • Create a more level playing field by identifying vessels that are not following established fuel changeover procedures to mitigate these excessive emissions.

An enforcement advisory was released in October 2020 that outlined this significant amendment to CARB’s Ocean-Going Vessel Fuel Regulation enforcement procedures.