Wednesday, September 19, 2012

EU Passes Stricter Regulations for Freight and Container Shipping

Permitted Sulphur Levels Drastically Reduced
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – Following a lead set by places such as California, where health considerations for those living adjacent to the coast have long been a priority, the European Parliament last week approved a reduction on the amount of sulphur allowable in bunker fuels regularly used in ships including the container carriers and other merchant freight vessels which make up the majority of fuel consumers.

The new limits will see the general levels of sulphur reduced for fuels in European seas fall from 3.5% to 0.5% by 2020, after MEP’s insisted on deleting provisions that would have allowed the deadline to be postponed by five years. Fuel used in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel - Europe's 'sulphur emission control areas' (SECA’s) - will need to meet the new international standard of 0.1% by 2015 (from 1% currently). As part of its review of air quality the legislation has asked the Commission to consider extending the stricter SECA limits to all EU territorial waters, i.e. within 12 nautical miles of the continental coastline.

The EU says that an estimated 50,000 premature deaths every year are directly attributable to air pollution from ships and so the new levels are in line with, and give teeth to, the latest International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) limits outlined by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) which are intended to promote the use of scrubbers as well as ensuring all bunkerage points switch to environmentally preferable oils.

The vote to support the revisions was well supported with the report by Finnish MEP and Green/European Alliance representative Satu Hassi being approved by 606 votes to 55, with 3 abstentions. Ms. Hassi commented:

"Highly polluting shipping fuels have a serious impact on the environment but this is also the most important health reform of this parliamentary mandate. With air pollution from shipping expected to outstrip land-based emissions by 2020, urgent remedial action is needed.”

The rapporteur went on to say that without a tightening of regulations there were fears that marine generated air pollution would outstrip land based emissions by 2020 and that the sulphur levels allowable under the new rules meant that levels would still be one hundred times higher than was permissible in vehicle fuels with the corresponding increase in the damaging particulates produced, hence the need for efficient scrubbers.