Danish coast card at work. Photo: © Asmus Koefoed / Shutterstock.com

Denmark to expose sulphur-cheating ships

Shipping companies not complying with fuel sulphur limits will be publicly named and shamed under new Danish government plans.

Danish environment and food minister Esben Lunde Larsen has asked the Danish Environmental Protection Agency to prepare a bill to make it possible to publish the names of those carriers which violate the sulphur regulation.

The sea areas surrounding Denmark – the North Sea and the Baltic Sea – are designated sulphur emission control areas (SECAs) in which ship fuel sulphur requirements were strengthened to a maximum of 0.1 per cent as from 2015.

“The limits on sulphur content in fuel must be maintained by everyone. It is good for the environment and for people’s health, and it creates fair competition within shipping. It is important to send a strong signal to those who violate the law, that sulphur cheating is not acceptable,” said Lunde Larsen.

Since 2015, the Danish EPA has reported 21 companies to the police for the violation of the sulphur requirements, and so far, seven of these have been fined. Three of them have paid a fine of between 30,000 and 375,000 Danish kroner (€4,000–50,000).

Monitoring of ships’ sulphur emissions indicates that the majority of ships, between 92 and 97 per cent, follow the rules, and monitoring of air quality shows that since this law was introduced, the amount of sulphur pollution in the air in Demark has more than halved.

Lunde Larsen said: “It is gratifying that the stricter sulphur requirements have resulted in cleaner air, and this is because most ships actually comply with the rules. Therefore, it must be possible to publish the names of the offending shipping companies, so that as a customer it is possible to opt out of shipping companies that do not comply with the rules. It can hopefully have a deterrent effect on the few shipping companies that still violate the rules.”

While ships using illegal fuel risk being fined in several northern European countries, this has not been the case in Sweden, a full three years after the entry into force of the stricter sulphur standards.

Even though the Swedish authorities have over the last few years checked more than 500 ships in Swedish ports, several of which have registered excessive sulphur levels, no charges have been filed.

But this will soon change, according to Swedish environment minister Karolina Skog, Starting this spring, there will be a financial price to pay for violating the sulphur regulation in Swedish waters, said Karolina Skog in an interview with ShippingWatch in December. A proposed new legislation introducing administrative sanctions instead of relying on criminal law, represents the key step.

Christer Ågren


Press release by the Danish Ministry of Environment, 26 January 2018 (in Danish).

ShippingWatch, 19 December 2017.


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