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Emission Standards

China: Marine Engines

Regulatory Background

China’s legislation to reduce pollutant emissions from marine engines includes several regulatory initiatives:

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  • China I/II Standards— Emission standards for Category I and Category II marine engines, adopted in 2016 [3487]
  • IMO Annex VI Standards—China has ratified MARPOL Annex VI so IMO NOx standards apply to Chinese flagged oceangoing vessels and foreign flagged vessels operating within Chinese waters
  • Domestic Emission Control Areas—Low sulfur fuel requirements for ocean-going vessels operating and berthing within selected coastal areas, adopted in 2015 [3488] and extended in 2019 [3951].

China I/II Emission Standards

The China I/II standards are based on US marine standards, with China I corresponding to the US Tier 2. The China I/II regulations were adopted in 2016 [3487] (replacing an earlier standard issued in 2008) and become effective in 2018 (China I) and 2021 (China II).

The standards apply to new Category 1 and Category 2 marine engines on vessels registered in China that navigate or operate in Chinese territorial waters. The regulation is applicable to both propulsion and auxiliary engines used by river boats, coastal boats, river-sea through ships, channel ships (ferries), and fishing boats. The standards also specify emission requirements for vessels and marine engines after overhaul.

China I/II standards do not apply to ocean going vessels, to ships used only in emergency situations, or to small marine engines below 37 kW (which must comply with emission standards for mobile nonroad engines).

The engine categories are based on US designations and are defined as follows:

  • Category 1 marine engines—Rated net power ≥ 37 kW and per-cylinder displacement of less than 5 L.
  • Category 2 marine engines—Per-cylinder displacement ≥ 5 L and less than 30 L.

China I/II standards are summarized in the following tables. The effective dates refer to new type approvals. The corresponding market placement dates are one year later.

Table 1. China I marine engine emission standards
Cat.Displ. (SV)Power (P)COHC+NOxCH41PMDate
 dm3 per cylinderkWg/kWhg/kWhg/kWhg/kWh 
1 SV < 0.9P ≥ 375.
0.9 ≤ SV <
1.2 ≤ SV <
2 5.0 ≤ SV <
15 ≤ SV < 20P < 33005.
P ≥ 33005.
20 ≤ SV <
25 ≤ SV < 305.
1 Applicable to natural gas (including dual fuel) engines only.
Table 2. China II marine engine emission standards
Cat.Displ. (SV)Power (P)COHC+NOxCH41PMDate
 dm3 per cylinderkWg/kWhg/kWhg/kWhg/kWh 
1 SV < 0.9P ≥ 375.
0.9 ≤ SV <
1.2 ≤ SV <
2 5 ≤ SV < 15P < 20005.
2000 ≤ P < 37005.
P ≥ 37005.
15 ≤ SV < 20P < 20005.
2000 ≤ P < 33005.
P ≥ 33005.
20 ≤ SV < 25P < 20005.
P ≥ 20005.
25 ≤ SV < 30P < 20005.
P ≥ 20005.
1 Applicable to natural gas (including dual fuel) engines only.

Table 3 summarizes China I/II regulatory emission durability periods and the minimum durability demonstration periods.

Table 3. Useful life and durability test periods
CategoryUseful LifeMin Durability Test
Category 1 & Category 210,000102,500
Category 1—Recreational1,00010500
Note: The useful life is specified in hours and years, whichever occurs first.

Fuel Sulfur and NOx Control Requirements

Table 4 summarizes the fuel sulfur requirements for ships in Chinese emission control areas (see DECA discussion below) and non-emission control areas [4409][4407]. While scrubbers can be used as an alternative to meeting fuel sulfur requirements, they can be subject to washwater discharge restrictions discussed later.

Table 4. Fuel sulfur requirements for ships
Vessel typeEmission Control AreaNon-Emission Control Area
Coastal control zoneInland river control areaCoastal watersInland waters
Hainan watersOther waters
Internationalc,d≤0.50% effective 2020.01.01
≤0.10% effective 2022.01.01
≤0.50% effective 2020.01.01≤0.10% effective 2020.01.01
Coastal shipse,d≤0.50% effective 2019.01.01
≤0.10% effective 2020.01.01
≤0.50% effective 2019.01.01
≤0.10% effective 2025.01.01
(to be evaluated)
≤0.50% effective 2019.01.01
≤0.10% effective 2022.01.01
≤3.50% effective 2012.01.01
≤0.50% effective 2020.01.01
Inland shipsfLarge cargo vessels--Revised MFO standarda
effective 2019.01.01
-Revised MFO standarda
effective 2019.01.01
Other cargo vessels--On-road dieselb
effective 2019.01.01
-On-road dieselb
Jianghaig≤0.50% effective 2019.01.01Revised MFO standarda
effective 2019.01.01
≤3.50% effective 2012.01.01
≤0.50% effective 2020.01.01
Revised MFO standarda
effective 2019.01.01
a GB 17411-2015/XG1-2018
b GB 19147–2016
c proposed [4408]
d carriage ban on fuel with >0.50% sulfur after 2020.03.01 and >0.1% after 2025.01.01 unless the vessel is fitted with a scrubber
e ship designed to operate on the open seas
f ship designed to operate on inland rivers
g specially designed vessel intended for both river and open sea operation

IMO NOx Standards

Chinese flagged oceangoing vessels and foreign flagged vessels are subject to the provisions of Regulation 13 of MARPOL Annex VI.

Starting September 1, 2018, all diesel engines installed on-board Chinese-flagged ships and imported ships (typically second hand vessels) applying for domestic trade in the DECA (the waters shown in Figure 1) are required to comply with the Annex VI Tier II NOx emission limits [3950]. This measure is in force for five years and will be subject to inspection. While Regulation 13 of Annex VI is not applicable to these vessels, these requirements are being adopted to manage the import of used vessels for service into Chinese waters. Additional guidance on this issue can be found elsewhere [3972].

Domestic Emission Control Areas (DECA)


In 2016, an implementation plan was issued by the China Maritime Safety Administration (MSA) designating three areas along the China’s coastline—the Pearl River Delta, the Yangtze River Delta and the Bohai Rim waters—as domestic emission control areas (DECA) for SOx emissions [3488]. This plan required regional authorities to set rules accordingly.

This was followed-up in 2018 with the announcement of the implementation of a costal DECA, effective January 2019 [3951].

While the 2016 and 2019 program structures reflect that of IMO ECAs, China’s domestic ECA designations and rules are independent from the international IMO regulations. However, in January 2019, the intention to carry out a feasibility study for a future IMO ECA was included in the Action Plan for Diesel Truck Pollution Control [4203].

2019 DECA

Starting January 1, 2019, all ships entering China’s coastal waters, Figure 1, must use fuel with a maximum sulfur content of 0.5% m/m. From March 1, 2020, a carriage ban for fuel oils containing more than 0.5% sulfur will be enforced for all ships without an exhaust gas cleaning system (i.e., scrubber). A 0.1% sulfur limit will apply to ships entering inland waterways, including the Yangtze River and Xijiang River (western part of Pearl River) from January 1, 2020 and from January 1, 2022 to the domestic area of Hainan Island. China will further evaluate whether the 0.1% sulfur fuel limit will be implemented in all other coastal waters from January 1, 2025. Extending the geographical boundaries of three DECAs established in 2016 was one of the potential measures being considered as part of the 2016 DECA program [3951].

Figure 1. 2019 domestic emission control area

A prohibition on the discharge of scrubber effluents has been adopted in selected areas, including (1) the port areas of the coastal control area (within 12 nautical miles of China coast); (2) the inland river control area (regulated waters of Yangtze River and Xijiang River); and (3) the Bohai area. A proposal to expand the prohibition to all vessels on international voyages operating in the DECA after 2020.01 was put forward in 2019.01 [4408].