Air pollution from rail and marine

Emissions from railway locomotives and marine vessels contribute to emissions of air pollutants. As regulations to reduce air pollution from on-road vehicles and engines and off-road engines take effect, the relative contribution of marine and rail emissions will become more significant.


Environment Canada recognizes that emissions from marine vessels can be of particular concern near port cities. For example, in B.C.'s Lower Fraser Valley, marine emissions account for 33% of total sulphur oxide emissions, 22% of nitrogen oxide emissions and 12% of fine particulate emissions, called PM 2.5.

Transport Canada's Pollution Prevention Guidelines for the Operation of Cruise Ships under Canadian Jurisdiction set out best practices for disposal of sewage and waste from cruise ships as well as setting targets for fuel sulphur levels and fuel quality reporting provisions. It is hoped that these Guidelines will be a first step toward reducing sulphur oxide emissions from the marine sector.

Part of the solution to addressing air pollution from marine vessels will need to be an international one, as vessels from around the world contribute to air pollution in our ports and along our shores. The Government of Canada is in the process of developing regulations that will align with NOx marine diesel engine standards and in-use fuel sulphur standards adopted by the International Maritime Organization. This international treaty regarding the prevention of air pollution from ships came into effect May 2005.


On May 15, 2007 the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), Environment Canada and Transport Canada signed a voluntary Memorandum of Understanding to reduce locomotive smog-forming and greenhouse gas emissions.  The MOU is consistent with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards and it provides a framework that will help the railway industry transition into a regulated regime that will align with EPA requirements starting in 2011.

Under the Terms of the Memorandum of Understanding, the RAC prepares annual progress reports on their Locomotive Emissions Monitoring Program that are available for the RAC, Environment Canada and Transport Canada to release to the public via their respective websites. 

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