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  • MEPs vote to clean up air pollution from shipping

    Efforts to remove one of the main causes of air pollution and acid rain from shipping have been boosted by a vote in the European Parliament. MEPs on the environment committee have approved draft rules to reduce the sulphur content of marine fuels. The changes now have to be confirmed by environment ministers and by the full Parliament.


    The vote was on a draft directive that aims primarily to put into EU law the global limits on sulphur agreed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in 2008. Despite international agreement, the directive has been attacked by business and some countries around the Baltic Sea, a so-called ‘sulphur emissions control area’ where the new limits will mean ships having to switch from heavy fuel oil to gasoil by 2015.

    Recently North America has introduced legislation that forces all ships operating around its coastline to use gasoil with a maximum 0.1% sulphur content. The environment committee voted to introduce such a zone all around Europe, albeit applying to only 22km offshore instead of North America’s 370km.

    T&E shipping campaigner Antoine Kedzierski said: ‘This vote brings Europe a step closer to a significant improvement in air quality, and should be welcomed. It’s great to see MEPs telling the EU to catch up with the United States by requiring the lowest sulphur fuels to be used near our coastlines where they do the most damage.’

    The committee has also voted to make it obligatory from 2020 for all ships entering EU ports to use fuel with maximum 0.1% sulphur content. At the moment, a weaker requirement applies to the Mediterranean. An attempt to improve monitoring of ships’ compliance with the new rules was rejected.

    • T&E sent ‘Valentine’s Cards’ to MEPs as a light-hearted way to encourage them to support low sulphur fuels.  See the downloads section below.