European Environmental Bureau

Air pollution from ships


Courtesy of European Environmental Bureau

Untitled Document


Emissions from shipping contribute significantly to the concentrations and fallout of harmful air pollutants in Europe. There are however technical means by which these pollutants could be cut by as much as 80-90 per cent, and very cost-effectively compared with what would have to be done to achieve similar results by taking further measures on land-based sources. Such reductions are needed for protecting health and the environment, and for shipping to develop into a more sustainable mode of transport.

An EU strategy to reduce the emissions of air pollutants from sea-going ships was adopted by the Commission in November 2002. As part of this strategy the Commission also published a proposal for modifying directive 1999/32/EC as regards the sulphur content of marine fuels.

The environmental organisations welcome the Commission’s declared intention to introduce measures aimed at combating emissions of air pollutants from seagoing ships. However, the action proposed by the Commission in regard to ships’ emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) will only result in total reductions from ships of less than ten per cent, as compared to their emission levels in the year 2000, which is clearly inadequate. In order to protect human health and the environment, significant additional cuts in European air pollutants emissions are necessary.

They are also needed for the EU to attain the interim environmental targets for 2010 as stated in directive 2001/81/EC on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants, and for achieving the Community’s long-term objectives of the Fifth and Sixth Environmental Action Plans of not exceeding critical loads and levels and of effective protection of all people against recognised health risks from air pollution.

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