Thousands of lives could be saved thanks to new rules on the sulphur content of shipping fuels approved by the Parliament on 11 September. Each year 50,000 people die prematurely due to air pollution from ships. MEPs voted to drastically lower the harmful sulphur content of marine fuels the coming years.
Highly polluting shipping fuels can seriously affect the environment and people's health. Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi, who is responsible for steering legislation on cleaner marine fuels through Parliament, said action was urgently needed as air pollution from shipping was expected to outstrip land-based emissions by 2020.
Like nitrogen oxides, sulphur gives rise to secondary particulates in the air that are harmful to people. Under the new rules adopted by the Parliament the general sulphur limit for fuels in European seas would drop from 3.5% to 0.5% by 2020. In addition there would be stricter norms for fuels in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and the English Channel, which have been designated Europe's sulphur emission control areas. This means the current 1% norm will be reduced to 0.1% by 2015. This is still 100 times more than the permitted sulphur content in fuel for land vehicles.