EU action

The Commission's Communication on a "Strategy to reduce atmospheric emissions from seagoing ships" and the "Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution" underline the importance of reduction of emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) from ships for the improvement of health and environment. The Strategy aims at significantly reducing premature deaths caused by air pollution by 2020 whilst simultaneously resolving environmental impacts such as acidification and eutrophication and associated losses in biodiversity.

Directive 1999/32/EC (amended by Directive 2005/33/EC and subsequently by Directive 2012/33/EU).

The Directive establishes limits on the maximum sulphur content of gas oils, heavy fuel oil in land-based applications as well as marine fuels for which it serves as the EU legal instrument to incorporate the sulphur provisions of the MARPOL Annex VI. The Directive also contains some additional fuel-specific requirements for ships calling at EU ports, obligations related to the use of fuels covered by the Directive, and the placing on the market of certain fuels (e.g. marine gas oils). The Directive does not contain provisions to regulate ship emissions of NOx or PM.

On 21 December 2009, the European Commission adopted a Recommendation on the safe implementation of the use of low sulphur fuel by ships at berth in EU ports. On 13 December 2010, the Commission decided under what criteria LNG carriers could be seen as an alternative to using low sulphur marine fuels, see: Commission Decision 2010/769/EU on the establishment of criteria for the use by liquefied natural gas carriers of technological methods as an alternative to using low sulphur marine fuels meeting the requirements of Article 4b of Council Directive 1999/32/EC relating to a reduction in the sulphur content of certain liquid fuels as amended by Directive 2005/33/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the sulphur content of marine fuels.

Directive 2005/33/EC, being the amendment of the Directive 1999/32/EC, introduced in the EU requirements parallel to those of MARPOL Annex VI in respect of the sulphur content of marine fuels. In addition, it also introduced a 0.1% maximum sulphur requirement for fuels used by ships at berth in EU ports from 1 January 2010.

This Directive has recently been amended by Directive 2012/33/EU in order to further adapt the European Union's legislation to the recent developments in the field at international level under MARPOL VI. This implies especially the introduction of, inter alia, stricter sulphur limits for marine fuel in SECAs (1,00 % until 31 December 2014 and 0,10 % as of 1 January 2015) as well as in sea areas outside SECAs (3,50 % as of 18 June 2014 and, in principle, 0,50 % as of 1 January 2020).

Besides the reference to NOx emissions from ships in the Commission's Communication on a "Strategy to reduce atmospheric emissions from seagoing ships" and the "Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution" there is currently no binding EU legislation on NOx emissions reductions from ships.


Role of EMSA

The Agency is closely involved in the air pollution work within the Union. This means cooperation with Member States in the form of workshops, participation in the inter-service consultation process within the Commission as well as providing regular technical opinions to the Commission when requested. EMSA provides constant overview regarding the enforcement of Directive based on annual reports on fuel sampling coming from the Member States, as well as studies related to the quality of fuel bunkered by ships.

In order to foster the development of alternatives fuels, and to contribute positively to the discussion on the impact of the 0.10 % sulphur content in marine fuels to be used in SECA from 2015, EMSA co-organised two workshops with the main industry stakeholders to identify best practises and obstacles in the development of the LNG propelled ships.

EMSA was closely involved in preparing the above referred Commission Decision on the equivalency methodology to allow LNG carriers to burn boil off gas when at berth instead of using 0.10 % sulphur fuel.

In the same context, during 2011, EMSA contracted a study to ECOFYS on the potential use and limits of biofuels to propel commercial ships. The main objective was to provide EMSA with a state of play on the use of biofuels in the shipping sector, as well as trying to have an overview of the potential technical limitations related to its use to propel commercial vessels.

EMSA has also provided a technical report analysing the studies made on the possible implications of new sulphur requirements and proposing alternative means of compliance. The report was presented in January 2011 at the EU Maritime Directors' Meeting.

EMSA is furthermore involved in different actions identified in the Commission Staff Working Paper on the Sustainable Waterborne Transport Toolbox and the alternative emission abatement methods, notably in relation to LNG as shipping fuel and operational and safety aspects of scrubbers.