Shipping: EU tightens sulphur limit in marine fuels

Tanker off Limassol, Cyprus - file pic
Image caption Ships will have to switch to cleaner fuels under the EU directive

A new EU directive has come into effect to cut sulphur emissions from shipping and thereby reduce air pollution.

Airborne sulphur is a major cause of acid rain that harms crops and buildings. The pollution also contributes to human health problems.

The EU member states have until 17 April 2014 to amend their laws on marine fuels.

The maximum sulphur content in marine fuels will be cut from 3.5% to 0.5%, and 0.1% in very fragile ecosystems.

The 0.1% limit is being set for the Baltic Sea and North Sea, including the English Channel, from 2015 onwards. The 0.5% limit will be phased in before January 2020.

The BBC's environment analyst Roger Harrabin says the new rules will particularly benefit people living near ports, where pollution from shipping frequently breaches EU air quality standards.

The EU Commission says that without any action, sulphur emissions from shipping in EU sea areas would exceed those from all land-based sources by 2020.

Ships now fill up with bunker fuel, which is very cheap but high in sulphur.

EU regulations limit the sulphur content of fuels used in trucks and passenger cars to 0.001%, the Commission says.

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