The heavy fuel oil used in international shipping contains around 2700 times more sulphur than road fuel. When burned, the air pollution produced is particularly harmful both to human health and the environment. Shipping air pollution is estimated to cause around 50,000 premature deaths per year in Europe. SO2 emissions also cause environmental problems such as acid rain affecting soil and water and damage to biodiversity.
The environment committee of the European Parliament voted in support of a July 2011 European Commission proposal to implement International Maritime Organization (IMO) sulphur limits. Additionally, the committee voted to follow the United States by requiring very low sulphur (0.1%) fuel to be used by all ships operating around the EU coastline by 2020.
Antoine Kedzierski, Policy Officer at Transport & Environment (T&E) said: ”This vote brings Europe a step closer to a significant improvement in air quality, and should be welcomed. It’s great to see Parliament telling the EU to catch up with the United States by requiring the lowest sulphur fuels to be used near our coastlines where it does the most damage.”
Louise Duprez, Policy Officer on air pollution at the European Environment Bureau (EEB) said: “Now Member States should give their full support to these changes so we can start cleaning up dirty ship emissions around our coasts.”
Some MEPs proposed improving enforcement of the law by requiring a minimum amount of inspections or installation of equipment to monitor emissions, but these were not approved.
“The Parliament just missed an opportunity to control the actual implementation of standards by national authorities in a more systematic way and at low cost” commented Duprez.
The new requirements will need to be approved by Environment Ministers before they can become law.