15 July 2011

The European Commission has adopted a proposal to lower the sulfur content of shipping fuels. The proposals should reduce SO2 emissions by up to 90%, and fine particle emissions by up to 80%, according to estimates by the Commission.

The proposed legislation revises Directive 1999/32/EC on the sulfur content of certain liquid fuels and incorporates IMO standards into EU law to ensure their harmonized enforcement by all EU Member States. Under the proposal, the maximum permissible sulfur content of maritime fuels used in sensitive areas including the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel will fall from the previous level of 1.5 % to 0.1 %, as of 1 January 2015. These sensitive areas correlate with IMO Emission Control Areas (ECA) for SOx emissions. In other areas, the maximum sulfur content is to be reduced from 4.5% to 0.5% by 1 January 2020.

Ships will be allowed to use equivalent technologies—such as exhaust gas scrubbers—in lieu of using low sulfur fuels. Other proposed changes include more unified reporting, verification and sampling provisions aligned with international standards. The proposal should be phased in from 2015 to 2020. In the meantime, the Commission will develop, in 2012, a series of medium and long-term measures within the framework of a "Sustainable Waterborne Transport Toolbox" to foster sustainable and competitive short sea shipping.

The new IMO fuel quality and NOx emission standards were adopted in 2008. In 2009, the United States harmonized their fuel and emission requirements for large ships with the IMO standards.

Source: European Commission