Tougher ship sulphur limits adopted by EU parliament

New EU legislation aimed at reducing sulphur pollution from ships was adopted by the European Parliament on 11 September. The revised EU directive implements the international sulphur standards adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2008, ensuring they can be properly enforced at EU level.

The revised EU directive confirms that a global limit of 0.5 per cent sulphur will apply in all EU seas by 2020. This represents an 85 per cent cut compared with today’s 3.5 per cent limit. Prior to this decision some uncertainty remained over the entry-into-force date in Europe of the IMO’s global limit, but the EU has now sent a clear signal that it wants lower-sulphur fuels earlier rather than later.

Also confirmed was the even stricter sulphur limit of 0.1 per cent for 2015 which applies in so-called Sulphur Emissions Control Areas (SECAs), i.e. in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel.

Environmentalist groups welcomed the adoption of the new law as a very significant step towards the reduction of air pollution from shipping. T&E shipping specialist Antoine Kedzierski said: “This is a very encouraging first step. Now the EU needs to follow the USA and Canada by making the entire EU coastline a low-SO2 and low-NOx zone, and by beefing up its enforcement regime.”

The Parliament’s rapporteur, Green MEP Satu Hassi, who brokered the final legislative agreement, stated: “The new rules adopted today represent a major concrete measure for reducing air pollution in Europe and improving public health. Thankfully, the final legislation remains ambitious and in line with the EU’s international commitments in spite of intense industry lobbying. The legislation will deliver significant yet cost-effective sulphur pollution reductions, with the cost of savings on healthcare far outweighing the costs of reducing sulphur emissions.”

Press release from EEB and T&E
Press release from the Greens

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