Air pollutant emissions from maritime transport can be transported over long distances and thus increasingly contribute to air quality problems in the EU. The Thematic Strategy on air pollution from 2005 concluded that sulphur emissions from shipping were forecast to exceed those from all land-based sources in the EU by 2020 (Source: Clean Air for Europe impact assessment, p31, 2005). Further action is therefore needed to improve human health and the environment.
Directive 1999/32/EC regulates sulphur emissions from ships by limiting the maximum sulphur content of marine fuel. This Directive was amended by Directive 2005/33/EC that designated the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel as sulphur emission control areas (SECAs) and limited the maximum sulphur content of the fuels used by ships operating in these sea areas to 1.5% (frequently asked questions). This fuel standard applies also to passenger ships operating on regular service outside SECAs. However, already at the time of adoption the SECA fuel standard was widely recognised as being insufficient to address observed environmental impacts from shipping.
Due to the international dimension of the shipping industry, environmental, security and safety standards are developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a United Nation’s specialized agency. Directive 1999/32/EC as amended transposes provisions of Annex VI of IMO’s Marine Pollution Convention, MARPOL 73/78. The Commission called for action at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to further reduce emissions and in October 2008 an amended Annex VI was adopted that further reduces the maximum sulphur content of marine fuels inside and outside of SECAs.
The European Parliament and the Council requested the Commission to report on the implementation of the Directive and to consider submitting a proposal for an amendment. Following this request and considering the development at the IMO in 2008, the Commission carried out a review of the Directive and adopted a proposal for its revision on 15 July 2011. Finally, Directive 2012/33/EU amending Directive 1999/32/EC was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 17 November 2012. The deadline for bringing Member States’ legislation in compliance is 18 June 2014 and the amended Sulphur Directive will enter into force 1 January 2015.
Information on EU policies on policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping can be found here.