22 April 2005

In a positive second-reading vote on April 13, the European Parliament has finalized a new marine fuel Directive to reduce sulfur content in heavy fuels used by seagoing ships. The mandated sulfur reductions will result in lower sulphur dioxide and particulate emissions from ships.

Marine fuel in the EU currently contains on average 2.7% (27,000 ppm) of sulfur. As part of its ship emissions strategy, the European Commission presented in November 2002 a proposal to reduce the sulfur content of marine fuels. The main provisions that are now finalized are:

  • A 1.5% sulfur limit for fuels used by all ships in the Baltic Sea, from 19 May 2006, and the North Sea and Channel, from fall 2007;
  • The same 1.5% sulfur limit for fuels used by passenger vessels on regular services between EU ports, from 19 May 2006;
  • A 0.1 % sulfur limit on fuel used by inland vessels and by seagoing ships at berth in EU ports, from 1 January 2010.

The limits remain the same as in last year’s Council Common Position (EC 13/2005, adopted on 9 December 2004), but the Parliament has negotiated a stronger review in 2008, requiring the Commission to consider a second-phase limit of 0.5%. Further sulfur reductions will be also a subject of future negotiations with the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The Parliament has also tightened requirements on the availability of low sulfur fuel and the use of abatement technology, and introduced an incentive for ships in port to plug in to clean shore-side electricity.

The directive will enter into force after its publication in the EU Official Journal, within a few months, once the text is finalized in all EU languages.

European Commission press release
DG Environment ship emissions policy page