European Parliament has approved legislation to cut sulphur levels in shipping fuel used by all vessels in EU waters from the current 3.5% to 0.5% by 2020.
European Parliament has also adopted an International Maritime Organization (IMO) accord that will lower the sulphur content of shipping fuel used in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel – Europe’s ‘sulphur emissions control areas’ (SECAs) – to 0.1% by 2015 from the 1% now.
The European Union’s newly implemented sulphur limits for marine fuels is expected to improve air quality along European coastlines and reduce the estimated 50,000 early deaths caused every year due to air pollution from ships.
Finnish MEP Satu Hassi, who acted as the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the matter, said that highly polluting shipping fuels have a serious impact on the environment but the legislation is also the most important health reform of the current parliamentary mandate.
"With air pollution from shipping expected to outstrip land-based emissions by 2020, urgent remedial action is needed," Hassi said.
The European Union is curbing sulphur emissions as they are blamed for health problems and environmental issues like acid rain affecting soil and water and damaging biodiversity.
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Under the legislation, shipping companies that use cleaner fuels or technology like scrubbers will be able to use fuels with higher sulphur content as long as SO2 emissions stay under the agreed limit.
The legislation has also asked the European Commission to consider the extension of the stricter SECA limits along all EU territorial waters within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.
Image: Legislation approved by European Parliament will cut sulphur levels in shipping fuel used by vessels in EU waters to 0.5% by 2020.