6 June 2003

The European Parliament adopted a legislative resolution approving a directive on the sulfur content of marine fuels, and tightened the sulfur limit from 1.5%—as originally proposed by the European Commission (COM 2002 0595)—down to 0.5%. Marine fuel of 0.5% sulfur content would have to be available (and become mandatory in the Baltic, North Sea, and the English Channel) from 31 Dec 2008, and become mandatory in all of Member States’ territorial seas from 31 Dec 2012.

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The bill still has to be debated by EU governments. Once EU ministers reach an agreement, the legislation will return to Parliament for a second and final reading.

The aim of the Commission’s proposal was to reduce the emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulates, thus lowering the extent to which ships contribute to air pollution and acidification.

Between 1990 and 2000, emissions of SO2 from land-based sources in the fifteen EU Member States decreased by about 60%, and by 2010 land-based emissions are expected to have decreased by 75-80%, according to the Parliament. In contrast, over the last 10 years, SO2 emissions from seagoing ships in European waters increased by nearly 30%.

Source: European Parliament