Ship Owners Warn of Sulphur Limit Problems

Methanol Fuel Cell BuoyEuropean ship owners have called on member states and the European Commission to clarify the legality of using some emissions-reduction technologies to comply with lower sulphur emissions limits. The limits will apply from January 1, 2015.

The European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA) says there is a legal grey area around the use of scrubbers, which remove sulphur from exhaust fumes using water. The waste water is dumped in the sea, but such discharges are banned in some ports.

Member states and the Commission are discussing the issue in a working group, with a decision due in the coming weeks. The issue may be resolved using secondary legislation.

Environmental group T&E says ship owners have had a long time to prepare as member states agreed to the January 1st deadline at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2008, while the EU directive implementing the decision was agreed in 2012. Member states were required to transpose the directive into national law by last week.

“It’s not just a European or a UK law, it’s an international law. The US and Canada will be enforcing it in their sulphur emissions control area on 1 January,” noted Bill Hemmings of T&E.

Member states are allowed to subsidize companies to upgrade their ships or to buy new ones, but the Commission says only Finland has established such a state aid scheme. EU state aid rules mean grants can only be made until the new standards enter force in January.  More information can be found here.

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