Emissions Regulations

Proposed Emissions Regulations

There is little doubt that Australia is heading for emissions standards for marine engines.   All of the major manufacturers have made statements supporting emissions standards, though there is some disagreement over timing and exemptions.   It has been on the government agenda since 2005.  

Around the World

Automobile emission standards began in Australia in the 1970’s, while Marine engine emissions standards were first regulated at the Bodensee Lake (Europe) in 1993. The US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has regulated small engine emissions since 1997, while the European Commission introduced the first emission standards for some marine engines in 2003.  China introduced small engine emission standards in 2010 followed by India in 2012.   Yet Australia still has no standards.

But Marine engines are much smaller than cars?

These unregulated engines may be small, but their emissions levels are very high. A 1997 DEH report[1] explains that an unregulated lawn mower produces forty times the emissions of a car. Not pro-rata, but for each hour of operation. Commute an hour a day and mow a lawn twice a month and the lawn mower could produce four times the annual emissions of the car.


To compare low emission vs. non-compliant outboard engines being sold in Australia today, consider examples from the audited USEPA engine certification database. The market leading Japanese manufacturer sells in Australia an 8hp two stroke outboard, barely big enough to power a small two seat open boat. The same company also sell a 150hp low emission four stroke, powerful enough to drive a ski boat or an offshore boat with a cabin.

The small 8hp two stroke produces more emissions per hour than the 150hp four stroke. Not just more but sixty per cent (60%) more (HC + NOx). This is typical of the huge difference in emissions between unregulated and regulated engines.

An unregulated outboard has around ten times the emissions level of a 3 star engine.   (take a look at our engine database to compare your outboard.)


What’s the plan for Australia then?

Currently the world’s leading standard is the US EPA 2012 standard. This standard has been mirrored in Japan and Canada and is the benchmark and that Europe is working toward harmonization.  It is also the standard that government and industry has proposed for Australia.  That means we get direct access to the models sold in the USA, without costly modifications for Australia.

A full range of clean, low emission engines are already being sold in Australia, with a market share of about 50%.   These are in our database as “3 star” and include four stroke and Direct Injection (DI) two stroke engines.    There is no technology to be developed, nothing new to import or invent. The products are already here, dealers and mechanics are trained.  For these reasons we argue that regulations need not be delayed.    

Boat Hulls will also need to comply.  One of the sources of Hydrocarbon Emissions is fuel vapour loss.  So, just like cars, boats with fuel tanks will need to employ measures to reduce vapours.   That may include tanks with ullage or overflow systems and carbon canisters on the fuel vent line.    Perko and Delphi worked closely with the USEPA to develop a practical system for boats, so for a preview of what we may see in Australia have a look at their excellent website: http://www.perkofuelsystems.com/


It’s not just outboards, all small engines, from lawn mowers to portable generators will be required to meet the new standards.

What you own now won’t be affected.  Like any new product standard the rules will only apply to new products imported after a certain date.  Never backdated.

But Why?

The Federal Department’s Cost Benefit Analysis (DESWPC - MMA 2008) shows that every year we delay regulations costs Australia $246m in measurable costs to the Health Budget. Real, measurable dollars, and behind those health budget dollars is measurable productivity losses and immeasurable and avoidable human suffering.   It is time we “did the right thing”

This won’t be onerous - it just brings boating closer to what has been required from cars since the 1970’s.


The History

  • 2005 The Environment Ministerial Council calls for further study
  • 2006.  Industry / Government expert panels (including AMEC members) with a report published in 2007 read more
  • 2008 Further studies including a Cost Benefit Analysis in 2008. read more
  • 2010  Public Consultation and the Regulatory Impact Study was conducted in mid-2010, and was due to be reported in November 2010 read more
  • 2014  The new Environment Minister calls for the Decision RIS to be produced within 6 months. read more


The Future ?
We may know more in mid 2015 so look out for our media releases. 

Boat Builders and designers should start incorporating evaporative standards in their hull design.    Some of our members have been doing this since 2010 and we are available to offer design advice.

But when will the standards start?   Perhaps as early as 2016.   We’ll keep you informed.

[1] DEH 1997a, Urban Air Pollution in Australia, An Inquiry by the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Commonwealth of Australia.

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