I welcome the adoption today, by a very large majority of the European Parliament, of the amendment to Directive 1999/32 on sulphur content in marine liquid fuels. The multiple benefits are obvious: improved air quality and cleaner seas, a greener shipping industry and compliance with international standards.
This amendment aligns the EU legislation with the stricter standards for sulphur content in marine fuels agreed in 2008 at the International Maritime Organisation. Under the Directive, the maximum permissible sulphur content of maritime fuels used in sensitive areas such as the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel will fall from the previous level of 1.5 % to 0.1 %, as of 1 January 2015. Other areas are to achieve an even bigger cut, from 4.5 % down to 0.5 % by 1 January 2020.
Currently emissions from shipping, due to the combustion of marine fuels with a high sulphur content, contribute to air pollution in the form of sulphur dioxide and particulate matter, which harm human health and contribute to acidification.
The amended directive aims to considerably reduce these emissions by requiring the ships to use cleaner fuel and is an effort to address persistent air quality problems in advance of a wider Commission review of air policy scheduled to take place before 2013.
While the new rules may pose challenges for the sectors concerned, the use of alternative abatement technologies, such as exhaust gas cleaning systems, as an alternative to using low sulphur fuels, will significantly reduce compliance costs and stimulate innovation and resource efficiency as a basis for the Green Economy.