A group of European manufacturers, shippers and shipowners have protested the proposed sulphur dioxide (SOx) emission reduction plan.

The companies said new rules restrict ships to fuels with a 0.1% sulphur content from 2015 in the emission control area (ECA) of Northern Europe, while in other regions, including the Mediterranean Sea, ships can still use fuel oils with 4.5% content until 2012 and then 3.5% until 2020.

The Swedish Forest Industries Federation said it expects a 70% increase in its members shipping costs, while the Confederation of Finnish Industries said the rule changes could cost its country’s businesses $1.6bn as shipping costs rise by 50%.

The 0.1% limit on SOx emissions was agreed in 2008 at the International Maritime Organisation’s marine environmental protection committee, according to lloydslist.com.

Shipowners and other industry organisations expected a 0.5% limit to be agreed on.