The new sulphur directive imposed by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for shipping in the English Channel, North Sea and the Baltic Sea has resulted in a significant improvement in air-quality in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Under the IMO directive, which came into force last January, ships operating in the designated emission control areas had to use on-board fuel oil with a sulphur content of no more than 0.10%, against the limit of 1.00%, which was in effect until 2014.

From 2014 to last year, sulphur emissions from the shipping industry have fallen by more than 70%, with particulate matter emissions falling by 50%.

”Sulphur emissions are a major problem globally in shipping and this clearly demonstrates that the directive has made a genuine difference.”

Port of Gothenburg chief executive Magnus Kårestedt said: "This is very positive, not only for the environment but also for people’s health.

"Sulphur emissions are a major problem globally in shipping and this clearly demonstrates that the directive has made a genuine difference in our immediate area."

The Port of Gothenburg has introduced a series measures including bunkering solutions for alternative fuels, such as LNG and methanol, along with a dedicated pipeline for low-sulphur fuel to comply with the sulphur directive.

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By GlobalData

At the request of shipping companies, a ‘sniffer’ device has also been installed at the entrance of the port.

However, in regions outside of Northern Europe, emission limits still have not fallen, owing to the usage of cheaper marine fuels, with considerably higher sulphur content.

Kårestedt added: "It’s unfortunate that our low limits have not been imposed globally. Swedish base industries, which make extensive use of shipping, have found it more difficult to compete on price."

Image: Gothenburg area records better air-quality after exercising IMO’s sulphur directive. Photo: courtesy of Port of Gothenberg.