• Parliament caves in on sulphur emissions from ships

    Hopes among environmental groups that the EU could launch pioneering marine quality legislation sank last month in a deal between MEPs and ministers.

    [mailchimp_signup][/mailchimp_signup]As Bulletin reported last month, the European Parliament’s environment committee voted in March for considerably stricter limits on sulphur emissions from ships than proposed by the Commission in a draft directive on the marine environment.

    But last month’s deal retains the basis of the Commission’s original position, which means all ships entering three “control areas” – the Baltic, the North Sea and the English Channel – must use fuel with a sulphur content lower than 1.5%. This is a reduction of around 10% from current levels, whereas MEPs on the transport committee voted for a 75% reduction.

    Stavros Dimas, the EU environment commissioner, said the agreement meant “clean shipping really has the wind behind it”. But T&E and other NGOs expressed strong disappointment. Referring to a Swedish report published in February, T&E policy officer Karsten Krause said: “The benefits of reducing sulphur content to 0.5% outweigh the costs by 7.5 times – there is no justification for such a weak compromise.”

    T&E has also pointed that these limit values would have become mandatory anyhow under the MARPOL convention. The new European directive only makes progress in some small details, such as the inclusion of ferries in all European waters.

    The 1.5% level limited to three “control areas” was proposed by the Commission in 2003 and will now apply within one to two years of the new legislation entering into force. An earlier parliamentary demand for the limits to be extended to all EU waters has been dropped, although the new 1.5% limit will apply to ferries operating throughout Europe.

    The Parliament’s earlier demand to move to a 0.5% limit within a decade also failed to make it into the law – even though the environment committee also supported this. Instead the Commission will review “the merits of a possible 0.5% standard by 2008. The review could include economic incentives to achieve the shift, a Commission declaration accompanying the new directive states.

    • T&E and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation have commissioned the transport economist Per Kågeson to produce a report on economic instruments for shipping with a focus on the feasibility of introducing a distance-related en-route charge. The report will be published later this month.

    • A global ban on single-hulled oil tankers entered into force on 5 April. The measures were adopted in December 2003 as amendments to the MARPOL convention, following the November 2002 sinking of the oil tanker Prestige off the Spanish coast.

    This news story is taken from the May 2005 edition of T&E Bulletin.