EU sulphur emissions agreement

European Union member states have reached agreement on draft legislation that will cover reduction of sulphur emissions from marine fuels for all vessels operating in EU waters.

The agreement, which complies with Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention, requires vessels operating in the EU sulphur emission control areas (SECAs) of the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel to lower the amount of sulphur used in marine fuel from 1 per cent to 0.1 per cent by 2015. Ships operating in non-SECA EU waters are required to lower the amount of sulphur used in fuels to 0.5 per cent by 2020, a decrease from the current levels of 3.5 per cent for cargo ships and 1.5 per cent for passenger vessels.

EU commissioner for the environment Janez Potocnik commented: “This is excellent news for our health and the environment, especially in ports and coastal areas, as it means that an agreement with the European Parliament on the directive on the sulphur content of marine fuels is now possible. Without this directive emissions from shipping would, by 2020, exceed emissions from all land-based sources.”

The draft legislation provides for the imposition of fines by national authorities for non-compliance with the rules. The EU commission also announced that it plans to use financial instruments to promote the development and testing of alternative technologies to reduce emissions from ships. In a review of its air quality policy scheduled for 2013, the commission will consider all options for reducing air pollution, including in the territorial seas of member states.

Rebecca Gibson
By Michele Witthaus
29 May 2012