The California Air Resources Board has extended the region off the Southern California Coastline where ships have to meet air quality regulations, to try to stop vessels which are skirting the tougher rules by avoiding main shipping lanes.
In 2009, the state passed the world’s toughest air pollution regulations in the world on ships. It included the heavily used shipping lanes between the Channel Islands, and the Santa Barbara and Ventura County coastlines. But many ships started traveling to, and from the ports of Los Angeles, and Long Beach on the western side of the islands, in waters which don’t face the same air pollution restrictions.
The shift in traffic created major concerns for the U.S. Navy, because the vessels were traveling through the Point Mugu Sea Range, affecting the military’s ability to conduct testing, and training missions.
The air board voted to expand the boundaries, and eliminate the loophole, which also means that much of the shipping may return to the Santa Barbara Channel. The maritime industry fought the expansion, saying that the detour saved the average vessel about $6,000 a trip, because bunker fuel costs less than low sulfur fuels. Environmental groups contend if ships lower their speeds in the Channel, it would result in fuel costs savings, as well as reducing the risk of hitting whales.