Sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions from ships have dropped substantially since 2015, a report published by the European Commission this week has claimed.
The Commissionâ€™s first report on compliance with the Sulphur Directive, which came into effect in January 2015, suggests that there has been â€˜high complianceâ€™ on the limits on the use of polluting sulphur-based fuels by ships.
Adopted in 2012, the Directive brought in rules to reduce the maximum sulphur content of marine fuels from 3.50% to 0.50% by January 2020.
In some very areas such as the Baltic Sea and the North Sea â€“ designated as â€˜Sulphur Oxides Emissions Control Areasâ€™ â€“ the maximum sulphur content had to be reduced from 1% to 0.10% in 2015.
The Directive has helped to cut sulphur dioxide (SO2) concentrations by up to half around these areas since 2015, the Commission claims, adding that the â€˜economic impactsâ€™ on the sector have been minimal.
According to the Commission, maritime shipping has a direct impact on air quality in many European cities, with exhaust gases from ships a significant source of air pollution.
Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for the Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs said: â€œEnvironmental rules deliver and protect our citizens’ quality of life when all sides involved work together to correctly apply them. The shared commitment by Member States, industry, and the maritime community as a whole is paying off. People living around protected sea areas can breathe cleaner and healthier air. And we have preserved the level playing field for industry.â€
The report comes days after a landmark agreement at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping by at least 50% by 2050.
This followed a meeting of the IMOâ€™s Marine Environment Protection Committee in London on Friday where representatives agreed on â€œa pathway of CO2 emissions reduction consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goalsâ€.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: â€œI encourage you to continue your work through the newly adopted Initial GHG Strategy which is designed as a platform for future actions. I am confident in relying on your ability to relentlessly continue your efforts and develop further actions that will soon contribute to reducing GHG emissions from ships.â€
EU Commission – Sulphur Directive Compliance Report