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Procedure : 2011/0190(COD)
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Document selected : A7-0038/2012

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Debates :

PV 11/09/2012 - 4
CRE 11/09/2012 - 4

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PV 11/09/2012 - 10.12
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Tuesday, 11 September 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

4. Sulphur content of marine fuels (debate)
Video of the speeches

  President. - The first item is the debate on the report by Satu Hassi, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 1999/32/EC as regards the sulphur content of marine fuels (COM(2011)0439 - C7-0199/2011 - 2011/0190(COD)) (A7-0038/2012).


  Satu Hassi, rapporteur. (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to all the shadow rapporteurs, and also to the Commission, for their excellent levels of cooperation during the negotiations.

With cooperation from Parliament’s negotiating team, we managed to improve the directive considerably from the perspective of both human health and easing the cost burden for industry. The directive brings into effect the new sulphur limits for ships agreed four years ago by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and they are to be made part of EU legislation. Pollutant emissions from ships will decrease substantially: ships must either switch to low sulphur fuels or clean their flue gases. In the emission restriction areas, that is to say, the Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel, a 0.1% sulphur limit will take effect at the beginning of 2015, and in other European seas, a 0.5% sulphur limit will be introduced in 2020.

This might be the most significant health reform introduced during the entire parliamentary term. The air pollution currently caused by ships is thought to be responsible for around 50 000 premature deaths a year. If marine sulphur emissions are reduced to almost a tenth, thousands of lives will be saved every year.

Although the main content of the directive is about streamlining EU legislation so that it more closely reflects the international agreement on the environment, it is an example of lobbying that focuses sharply on the issue. I would now like to correct what appears to be a common misconception. The new sulphur limit in the Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel will become law even if the EU directive is not enacted. The decision taken four years ago by the IMO is international law, and will be in force even without the directive. Most of the Member States of the EU and the other IMO Member States have already ratified it. For example, after 2015, a Finnish ship would no longer be able to enter legally the ports of other European countries, nor even those in virtually any other country.

I have the following questions for those of you who have called for the EU to oppose international environmental norms for shipping. Do you want half of all countries – including Russia, for example – to dissociate themselves from the double hull requirement for oil tankers? That would incur costs too. Or do you want tens of thousands of people to die prematurely from marine pollution? Do you want European taxpayers to pay for the costs of heart and lung disease, which is many times what cleaning up marine pollution would cost?

The directive is needed to coordinate the implementation of the IMO’s decision with monitoring in Europe. In addition, it will provide a level playing field for Europe and soften the impact on industry. The negotiated text means that Section 86 of the guidelines on State aid for environmental protection, the section on retrofitting environmental protection, needs to be applied. In this case, far more State aid than normal can be granted for the installation of flue gas scrubbers up to the end of 2014.

The directive will also level the playing field between northern and southern Europe, when they, too, switch to low sulphur marine fuels in southern Europe in 2020, even if the IMO grants a five-year grace period to seas outside the emission restriction areas.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would ask those of you who intend to vote against the directive this question. Do you want to deprive industry in northern Europe of this safety net that the directive has agreed on, and do you also want to deprive Europe of the improved standards of equality within it, which the directive incorporates?


  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, first of all, I would like to thank and congratulate the rapporteur, Ms Satu Hassi, as well as the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the Committee on Transport for the excellent work carried out on this proposal. We have been waiting for it for a number of years. It was already clear in 2005 that, with business as usual, sulphur emissions from shipping would exceed those from all land-based sources in the European Union by 2020. In order to reverse this trend, the Commission supported the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in developing internationally binding standards for the quality of marine fuels, which were agreed in 2008.

This was a major breakthrough. The new standards will bring very significant health and environmental benefits and will contribute to resolving problems faced by Member States in complying with air quality limits.

Although they are highly cost-effective for the economy as a whole, the Commission is aware of the potential economic impact on the shipping industry. That is why we have brought forward a set of measures to support compliance with the legislation in a staff working paper entitled the Sustainable Waterborne Transport Toolbox. This work has now culminated in the proposal on which you will vote today.

The Commission is satisfied with the compromise text, which aligns the directive with the international rules of Annex 6 of the MARPOL Convention in respect of sulphur standards and strengthens provisions on enforcement and monitoring.

Let me explain some of the very good reasons which have already been explained by Ms Hassi.

Firstly, the stricter sulphur standards agreed at the IMO will now be introduced into European Union legislation and, hence, will benefit from the European Union enforcement regime. The European Union legislation will introduce the global 0.5% sulphur standard in 2020, while the IMO foresees a review clause with a possibility to postpone it till 2025. We support the choice made by the colegislators as it brings certainty for investors and operators, as well as fairness across the European Union.

Secondly, the directive will allow the use of emissions abatement technologies, such as scrubbers, or LNG as alternatives to the use of low sulphur fuels. These alternative compliance methods allow operators to choose the most cost-efficient compliance option and also promote development of clean technologies.

Finally, the provisions on enforcement of the standards and guidelines on monitoring and reporting of fuel used by ships should result in a more effective control of compliance with the new standards.

I am convinced that this directive will contribute significantly to reducing air pollution and thus will have a positive impact on people’s health. It is also a step towards a more modern and greener shipping industry.

However, a number of changes introduced in the Commission’s proposal during the first reading deliberations require the Commission to make six declarations concerning: the revision of Directive 2000/55/EC on port reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues; the use of the ‘non-opinion’ clause for the adoption of implementing acts; the use of dynamic reference to the IMO on the establishment of new Sulphur Emission Control Areas; the use of implementing acts instead of delegated acts for sampling and reporting of marine fuels; the request to the Commission to develop new measures supporting the implementation of the directive by the end of 2012; and finally, the ongoing work to review the EU thematic strategy on air pollution to assess the costs and benefits of additional measures to reduce air pollution from shipping, including the impact of applying a maximum fuel sulphur standard of 0.1% in territorial waters.

We will, of course, pass the full text of these declarations to the plenary services to be recorded in the minutes. The Commission firmly believes that the outcome of the codecision process is a good step forward and it accepts the compromise reached at first reading. So, once again, congratulations on the very good work. It was not an easy compromise but it was very well done.


  Vilja Savisaar-Toomast, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Transport and Tourism. (ET) Mr President, the sulphur content of marine fuels undoubtedly has a significant effect not just on the European environment and on air quality, but also on the transport sector. According to various estimates, the secondary particulates produced by sulphur and nitrogen oxides arising from air pollution from ships cause up to 50 000 premature deaths in Europe every year.

Given the above, and in view of the agreement that is on the table today, it must be said that the objectives that were set have largely not been achieved. We need to set equal rates that apply to all of Europe’s seas, in order to guarantee clean air not only for Northern Europeans, but also for other coastal areas of Europe. It is also important to guarantee fair and equal competition in the transport sector, and to avoid the unequal treatment of shipping companies operating in different regions.

The European Commission and the Member States should follow the example of the United States and Canada, which jointly established a sulphur monitoring area within 200 nautical miles of their entire coastlines, and they should set firm deadlines for establishing a pollution monitoring area covering the whole of Europe. Although I take a critical view of the agreement concluded between the Council and Parliament, I support the adoption of this report, because the indecision that has existed since 2008 must be brought to an end, and a clear signal must be given about the future. Finally, I would like to thank the rapporteur, Satu Hassi, and our other colleagues.


  Christofer Fjellner, on behalf of the PPE Group.(SV) Mr President, it is with mixed feelings that I stand here today, as the decision that we are to vote on, that is to say, the implementation of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) agreement on sulphur, is something that we have had very little opportunity to influence. I think it is far from a brilliant piece of legislation.

I welcome the fact that we are finally tackling the issue of sulphur and that we have a global solution, as it is a major health problem. As the Commissioner pointed out, sulphur emissions from shipping will soon exceed sulphur emissions on land.

Anyone who has seen bunker oil will know what I mean. Bunker oil is so dirty that in many cases, it has to be heated up just to get it into the engine to burn it. However, as I said, the way in which this decision was taken is not at all good. In fact, it is completely unreasonable. The agreement splits Europe in two. It gives the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel, in other words, the areas that already have the strictest rules in the world, even stricter rules, while, at the same time, nowhere near as much is done in other parts of Europe. It is as though the lives of Greek people are worth less than those of Danish people, for example.

At Parliament’s reading of the matter, we tried to rectify this absurdity and ensure that we have stricter requirements everywhere at the same time. We managed to make a slight improvement, but it is a long way from being enough. This decision results in unequal conditions throughout Europe. This will be extremely expensive, costing in the order of many billions, which will be noticeable in the already stretched state budgets. Even yesterday, I saw that industries were announcing that they would move, in which case we have gained nothing.

However, the Member States have asked for this themselves. Those countries that are currently worst affected have asked for this. Therefore, it is simply up to us to implement this decision. I think that the scheme is unreasonable. Those of us here, who are forced to legislate on this, should clearly have been involved from the outset in the discussion on the form this IMO decision should take. We cannot now stand here and claim that we would react at five minutes to twelve when the whole debate on the consequences of the decision took place at five minutes past twelve. If I had been able to stop this from happening, I would have done so, but unfortunately, the opportunity did not arise.


  Marita Ulvskog, on behalf of the S&D Group.(SV) Mr President, four years ago, the global decision to establish this more stringent Sulphur Directive was taken. All of the governments of the EU were involved in that decision.

Our task has been to translate this into EU legislation. We have had tiny opportunities to change the content, but I think that we have nevertheless succeeded on a few points. This does not mean, however, that we can be satisfied with the result.

We can be satisfied with regard to the environmental and health aspects, at least as far as the northern half of Europe is concerned, as the requirements mean that we are moving a step towards treating our environmentally damaged seas, our seas that are struggling to survive, and thus also jeopardising the survival of human beings, in a better way. We need to be aware that the requirements for emissions from transport on land are a hundred times higher than those for maritime transport. That really is unacceptable.

However, the problem is that we are placing a great deal of pressure on the northern half of Europe and no additional pressure on southern Europe, at least, no significant additional pressure. We are creating a divided Europe. That is not acceptable if we are to have a common internal market. I now hope that, with our proposal, we have been able to even out some of the differences, and the work must continue.


  Holger Krahmer, on behalf of the ALDE Group.(DE) Mr President, firstly, I would like to express my thanks to the rapporteur. We have recently enjoyed very constructive cooperation on this subject in particular. The result that we have before us today is a compromise, and it is in the nature of compromise that everyone is both satisfied and dissatisfied with it at the same time. Overall, it is a step in the right direction when it comes to the quality of marine fuels in the European Union. We have been making policy on air quality in other areas for years and, in my opinion, we often overshoot the mark and pass measures that are not particularly efficient. In this case, we are on the right track.

Nonetheless, I have certain objections here. In reaching agreement so quickly at first reading, we have disregarded some of the arguments and concerns of some players in Europe’s internal market. In 2015 at the latest, when it becomes compulsory to use what are, in fact, sulphur-free fuels in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs), which is essentially in the North Sea and the Baltic, there may be consequences of this legislation that can already be foreseen today but which, at the end of the day, we are completely ignoring. It cannot be in the interests of this legislation if more expensive fuel for goods transport by ferry in the North Sea and Baltic results in goods vehicles turning around at the ferry ports and going by road instead, where this is a possible alternative to short sea crossings. We have given no thought to that, and it was not considered when the Marpol Convention was concluded either. We have simply disregarded this argument. Consequently, I fear that we will have to look at this situation again in the northern regions in two years’ time.

I think it is important to harmonise things in Europe, but we also have to be clear that this cannot happen at the very highest level. I can quite understand some of the arguments from southern Member States, particularly those bordering the Mediterranean, which are dubious about this idea and feel that they have other priorities than the introduction of sulphur-free fuel. It costs money, and you can only ever spend your budget resources once. Consequently, I see this as a step in the right direction but, in the end, unequal competition within the EU has been written into the legislation here.

My final point is that compensating Northern Europeans for their hardships by means of State aid cannot be the way to go since, in the end, this would distort competition between the countries of Northern Europe. Some countries will pay, while others will not.


  Carl Schlyter, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(SV) Mr President, I would like to thank the rapporteur for her excellent cooperation. The maritime industry would claim that shipping is an environmentally friendly means of transport. I therefore think it is wrong to complain about the fact that we are asking the industry either to stop burning waste – which is what it has in its tanks now, that is what we can liken bunker fuel to – or when it does burn this waste for it at least to treat it. These are entirely reasonable requirements that will save 50 000 lives.

The stricter regulations in the Baltic Sea are entirely to be expected, as it is an extremely sensitive sea. No organisms are perfectly adapted to brackish water. The organisms are sensitive. It is logical to have more stringent rules there. Not everyone can install scrubbers and change vessels at the same time. It is good that some are leading the way. The costs for this have been hugely exaggerated. They are equivalent to a fifth of a cent per share dividend for those companies that need to invest in this. We can afford this. The alternative, in other words not implementing this, is not something we can afford to do, however.


  Sampo Terho, on behalf of the EFD Group. (FI) Mr President, Ms Hassi, I am opposed to the adoption of this report, and I also urge others to vote against it.

The report contains massive flaws that would have a very adverse effect on my own country, Finland, and northern Europe as a whole. The Finnish economy is totally dependent on exports. In all, 90% of Finnish exports travel by sea. The additional annual cost to the Finnish export industry that would result from this directive is estimated at more than EUR 500 million. It is thought that job losses would increase to 20 000. At the same time, the benefits from regulation on sulphur emissions, which is far tighter than elsewhere in Europe, to natural conditions in the Baltic region will be minimal. This decision is unfair and contrary to the European spirit because it favours some Member States while punishing others. If a directive comes into force that imposes regulation on the Baltic Sea area that is five times stricter than, for example, that in the Mediterranean, it will distort competition in the internal market.

The forestry company UPM has now said it intends to move part of its paper production operation out of Finland if the directive is implemented. UPM’s Managing Director has said that 300 tonnes of paper now produced annually will leave the country and it will be manufactured in the future in the company’s plants in central Europe. This is a clear example of the directive’s blatant unfairness and distortion of the internal market.


  Sabine Wils, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(DE) Mr President, it is time to put an end once and for all to the fact that, every year, tens of thousands of people in the EU die prematurely because of marine emissions. Outside the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs), ships’ engines are more or less burning special waste. On this, the EU is lagging far behind the US and Canada, where only low sulphur fuel can be used in coastal areas. As far as I am concerned, this proposal to amend the directive represents a clear improvement, and this is partly down to the tenacity of the rapporteur.

Better limit values are only half the battle, however. Equally as important is the fact that these are then implemented and enforced. There are certain loopholes, as a result of which it cannot be ruled out that shipowners will be able to evade the directive if, for example, a shipowner apparently proves that he is unable to store low sulphur fuels. It really comes down to the Member States and the Commission here. They must implement the regulations and impose painful penalties when necessary.


  Jacqueline Foster, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Mr President, my apologies for my delay this morning. I would like to agree with my Finnish colleague and, while I agree with the main concerns of this proposed directive and believe that it is important to improve and protect the maritime environment through reductions in the sulphur content of marine fuels, there are still a number of areas that need close attention.

This proposal is in clear conflict with the principle of equal treatment of Member States regarding internal market agreements across the EU. The different sulphur limits set between the Sulphur Emission Control Areas in northern Europe, including the English Channel, North Sea and Baltic Sea, and the rest of the EU will create disadvantages across the maritime sector, leading to increased costs for shipowners and operators and causing modal back-shifting, which will lead to increased congestion and an increase in CO2 emissions. Any assessment by the Commission must take this disparity into consideration.

To conclude, it is also important to ensure that the technology required by the maritime sector to meet conditions of this directive within the timeframe is widely and affordably available. My information at the moment is that there is insufficient cleaning equipment available. There must also be assurances to those wishing to invest in alternative fuels, such as liquid natural gas, that the investment will be made in the infrastructure.


  Richard Seeber (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I, too, would like to thank the rapporteur for the way she has taken this report through Parliament. There is no dispute that action needs to be taken in the marine sector. At the same time, however, we have to bear in mind that shipping is international in nature and has very long investment cycles. Nonetheless, this is a good compromise. You can tell that from the fact that so many Members have already complained about it. I believe that it is balanced.

It needs to be pointed out to the northern Member States, in particular, that they have already agreed to the whole package in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and in the Council. It is precisely their region that is most affected by marine emissions and in which the greatest health problems have arisen. Consequently, that is where action most needs to be taken. There are thus objective reasons that justify this division of Europe into two here.

It is also clear that we see a need for action here because, otherwise, in 2020, all the successes that we have achieved in terms of clean air on land would be invalidated by the significant increase in marine emissions. At the same time, we must make sure that we adhere to the transitional periods. That is why we chose 2020, in order to give the shipping industry time to make the changeover and also in order to be able to make the fuels available to them. That is currently the biggest problem. Let us bear in mind, however, that each euro invested here is well invested and will be worth many times that amount in terms of saved health care costs and quality of life. That can only be right.


  Janusz Władysław Zemke (S&D).(PL) Mr President, I should like to draw attention to the following fact: the sulphur content of marine fuels has been falling steadily for several years. This is a welcome trend, because it improves the quality of people’s lives and protects the environment. This also applies to the Baltic Sea and the countries which lie around it, so it also applies to Poland.

It should be noted, however, that the reduction in sulphur content now being proposed is to be a severe one. Only a few years ago, the sulphur limit for fuel was 1.5%, today it is 1%, and in a few years, it is to be 0.1%, so there is to be a tenfold decrease. Such a requirement puts many of Europe’s shipowners in a very difficult situation, and the cost of fuel, which will have to be higher because it is going to be of better quality, may reduce the competitiveness of this form of transport. These shipowners should therefore be given technical and financial assistance, and this is something which should be provided by the Union and, in particular, by Parliament.


  Bas Eickhout (Verts/ALE). (NL) Mr President, this is a good day for Europe: we are finally again tackling air pollution caused by sulphur. We all know that this type of pollution has a major impact on our air quality, as well as our water quality, and it is really important that we do something about it. We need to look at shipping, in particular, because, in 2020, shipping in Europe will produce more sulphur emissions than land-based sources of pollution. We will finally ensure a level playing field by doing something about shipping now.

To all of you who have talked about a level playing field in this Chamber, I say this: at the moment, shipping produces 2 700 times more sulphur emissions than freight transport. And so, by tackling sulphur emissions, we will ensure a level playing field. This is a good day for Europe and it is this path that we should continue to follow.

(The speaker agreed to take a blue-card question under Rule 149(8))


  Bendt Bendtsen (PPE), Blue-card question.(DA) Mr President, we are now forcing some maritime traffic onto land, and the result, namely, that lorries will be driving all through the Baltic region and on through Germany, will not be good for the environmental balance sheet. Bas Eickhout said that it is a good day for Europe now that we are choosing road transport over shipping. Why, then, is something not being done in the Mediterranean?


  Bas Eickhout (Verts/ALE), Blue-card answer. – Mr President, I will react to that question and not the other one. I am hearing different things here. You are mixing up what is happening in the Baltic Sea area and the Mediterranean.

I do not think there is much competition when you look at transport from the northern and southern parts of Europe. It is also not true that there will now be a lot of transportation by trucks because of this legislation, because trucks already have far higher standards for lowering sulphur emissions. I therefore do not see the point you are raising.

I also think it is high time for the shipping industry to emit less sulphur, just as trucks are doing right now.


  Liisa Jaakonsaari (S&D). (FI) Mr President, we have to remember a basic fact: this is a very important directive on health and the environment, and one that will actually save human lives. This is important.

I would be even happier if there had been an opportunity for more fine-tuning. For example, it would have been fair if the same stringent limits had been imposed on all European countries, which is what the rapporteur, Ms Hassi, endeavoured to do at first. It would also have been fair if, for example, my country, Finland, which asked for a transitional period – which would have been very important for its industry, economy and employment figures – had had its request granted. We have failed in these fine-tuning strategies, and that is why it is understandable that in many countries, people are very dissatisfied, because this affects employment and regional development very greatly. However, the EU’s powers of decision are limited here.


Catch-the-eye procedure


  Peter van Dalen (ECR). (NL) Mr President, we may not have a perfect compromise on the table, but it is a reasonable one. Of course, it is a shame that low sulphur marine fuel will not become mandatory in all European seas. At the moment, it is only the Baltic Sea, the English Channel and the North Sea that are benefiting from low sulphur fuel and that is a pity. On the other hand, we have prevented a situation where all the other seas in Europe are not required to comply with the requirements. We have made several agreements regarding those seas as well.

This is, therefore, the maximum that we have been able to achieve and I think that it is also good that we, as Parliament, have made a clear statement regarding what is commonly known as shore-side electricity. That, in my opinion, is a huge achievement for the residents of a number of ports in Europe, such as Rotterdam. To sum it up then, this is the best that we have been able to achieve. I support the Hassi report.


  Agnès Le Brun (PPE).(FR) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, after months of work, as I was saying, Parliament, the Council and the Commission have reached a compromise concerning the amendment to the directive on the sulphur content of marine fuels, as we know.

This text, on which our three institutions have reached a consensus, is the result of a long process of negotiations in which we participated fully with a small number of colleagues. Not all of our expectations were met, but I am delighted with one particular point where our commitment has borne fruit. The directive, as amended by Parliament this week, will allow Member States to request the revision of the Marine Pollution (MARPOL) convention within the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in order to ensure a deadline for the application of newly authorised sulphur levels.

Indeed, a strict application of MARPOL could add unacceptable constraints to an already very precarious sector, which is forced to invest in very long cycles. On this point, the report by Satu Hassi allows for, in my opinion, an intelligent balance between environmental and economic requirements. We must never forget that the future will be built by ceasing to set the environment against the economy.

While it is often criticised, on this issue, the European Union is proving that it can act as a real lever, and our governments – and I should say ‘but’ our governments – are now fully responsible for realising this work.


  Karin Kadenbach (S&D).(DE) Mr President, Commissioner, it is essential that we take action quickly in this area. Look at the figures: 50 000 deaths, solely as a result of the pollutants contained in marine fuels. The level of lung disease and respiratory disease in Europe is increasing dramatically. Above all, we should think of the children and focus on them. The patients are getting younger and younger. I urge you to set stringent standards in future in this regard.

Naturally, we want to shift transport from the roads to the waterways as far as possible. However, we cannot allow that to result in additional air pollution, and therefore also in additional deaths in Europe. We want the opposite. We want healthy air. We want healthy children. We want a clean environment.


  Werner Kuhn (PPE).(DE) Mr President, as a member of the Committee on Transport and Tourism, I should like to point out once again that the European Union has set out its position clearly as regards its transport strategies. From Road to Sea, Short Sea Shipping and Motorways of the Sea are eloquent examples of this. I would also like to clear up a few myths that are being spread here, suggesting that ships are more or less floating waste incinerators on this blue planet. Specific energy consumption per tonne and kilometre, per passenger and kilometre, is at its lowest in shipping, better than for rail and better than for the transport of goods by road.

That is why it is essential, Commissioner Potočnik, that we agree on a sensible investment programme for the introduction of new fuels, because if we are moving towards diesel quality, then we still have not yet had an impact assessment, which would ask whether things will then move in the opposite direction, from sea to road. That is exactly what we do not want to happen. Consequently, if we want to make new fuels such as LNG available, we need to build up an infrastructure in our Baltic and North Sea ports that allows shipping to fill up with these fuels. The flue gas desulphurisation facilities, known as scrubbers, also need to be developed further. These are very important things, which is why I wanted to draw attention to them once more.


  Riikka Manner (ALDE). (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, firstly, I wish to thank the rapporteur, Ms Hassi, for the work that she has done. This issue is a very difficult one, and she has certainly worked hard to promote it.

It is quite obvious that we have to reduce sulphur emissions, but the way in which we are now approaching the matter is very unfair, as has already been made clear here. First of all, it would have been a good move if there had been a longer transitional period for the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs). Now, the SECAS have to lower their emissions to 0.1% by 2015, while countries in southern Europe can keep their 3.5% emission rate until 2020. This puts competition in a very unfair position. We would also have liked a rather longer transitional period for developing sulphur scrubbers, and I wish that this had been considered. Nevertheless, we have to remember that what we in the European Parliament decide will be very restricted in nature, because these decisions have already been taken by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), as well as by the Council.


  Diane Dodds (NI). – Mr President, the EU is obliged to comply with international obligations in this important matter and we have a timetable to meet. Within the opinions prepared, some mention has been made of the possibility of what might be described as the unintended consequences of this proposal. These include the potential of diverting ships to ports in those countries that choose to circumvent international obligations, as well as diverting the carriage of goods from sea transportation to roads, which counters policy elsewhere.

As well as issues about ocean-going ships being able to comply with the timetable, there is a related issue as to where the lower sulphur content fuel will come from. Refining capacity for these fuels is not infinite and there is no doubt that the obligations the EU wishes to meet in a little over two years time will increase demand. Consequently, there is a danger that demand will outstrip supply, with the result that fuel prices for those marine sectors that already use low sulphur content fuels, such as our fishing industry, will be further squeezed, thus adding to the pressures faced by that sector. We should be wary of unintended consequences.


  Georgios Koumoutsakos (PPE). (EL) Mr President, the basic objective of the directive is to improve and apply maximum limits to the sulphur content of marine fuels, as agreed by the International Maritime Organisation. An effort has been made to go beyond those provisions and apply stricter limits. The compromise achieved is satisfactory. Clear progress and a clear improvement have been made. However, I still have certain misgivings, mainly concerning the review clause. Before reviewing the directive, we need to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the impact of its application. I also believe that the new legislative initiative in 2013 already provided for undermines the predictability and stability of the economic environment, We are all aware of the vital importance of investment, especially in the current recession. We therefore need to combine realism with ecological awareness.


  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Mr President, Parliament constantly supports the objective of encouraging maritime transport, given the low environmental impact it has. The Commission should make full use of instruments such as Marco Polo and the trans-European transport network, by which I am referring, in particular, to the short-distance maritime corridors, to provide prompt assistance and increase the proportion of maritime transport among all the transport operations carried out in Europe.

Member States might also feel it necessary to offer support to the operators affected by this directive, in line with the applicable regulations on State aid. We wanted to use the amendments tabled and adopted in the Committee on Transport and Tourism to call on Member States to encourage the use of electrical energy generated onshore as an alternative, in order to ensure the balanced availability and distribution of marine fuels and reduce the emissions caused by maritime transport.


  Pilar Ayuso (PPE).(ES) Mr President, the agreement reached by Parliament and the Council reflects what was unanimously approved by the Member States concerned in the International Maritime Organisation. These seas have disconcerting levels of acidification. Moreover, their capacity for regeneration is very limited. The fuels required are going to be more expensive, and therefore there are plans for financial aid for businesses, which is very reasonable.

Some Members, however, have sought to have the requirements for new fuels applied to all the Union’s seas. We would find ourselves with a paradox in that we would be trying to solve an environmental problem of some Member States by creating a major economic problem in the Mediterranean, which does not have that environmental problem, but does have other environmental problems, the costs of which we are not seeking to impose on the other Member States.

The Treaty is very clear. Sensitive areas must be protected. However, not all areas are equally sensitive.


  Bogusław Sonik (PPE).(PL) Mr President, on the question of reducing the sulphur content of marine fuels, we should try to reach a compromise between maintaining standards which are safe for health and acknowledging the realities of economic competition. This is particularly the case when it comes to consignments from countries outside Europe – from the developing world, for example – where fuel standards are significantly lower. We should therefore stay with the proposed limit on the sulphur content of fuels used by vessels coming to Europe and leave these other countries time until 2020 to raise their standards and make their fuel less harmful.

In addition to this, the International Maritime Organisation should also take action to reduce other emissions, and the European Union should accept and adopt current international agreements on the sulphur content of marine fuels.


  Matthias Groote (S&D).(DE) Mr President, air quality is an important topic in the European Union, particularly in the coming year, which is the Year of Air. We should take heed of this and work to ensure that progress is made in this area. However, we also have to take into account the fact that maritime transport is currently facing one of its most severe crises. I have major concerns regarding the technology that is to be used to provide clean air. In this area, we must make sure – and that includes in the financial perspective – that alternatives are pointed out.

As my fellow Member has just said, LNG is a very good alternative in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs). However, for this we need research and development. It is also an economic recovery plan for our shipyards, particularly in the case of scrubber technology, which has not got that far yet. I sometimes get the feeling that some of my fellow Members believe that the required technology is just sitting on the shelf waiting to be used. It is not. I would therefore like to see greater focus on promoting technology, so that we really can have clean air in our ports and port cities. Please would you also pay heed to who foots the bill at the end of the day.


End of the catch-the-eye procedure


  Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I would like to comment on five points.

First, it is obvious from your interventions that this is not an easy compromise, but it is a compromise which has been reached. It is a good, reasonable compromise, one which I believe is really important. That is why I would encourage you to support it by voting for it today.

Second, the fact is that whatever means of transport you take has an influence on air quality, be it air, land or water. As some of you have mentioned, it is true that travelling by water is many times more environmentally friendly than travelling by land. But if we want this to remain so, we have to adopt the proposal which is on the table today.

In terms of today’s proposal, the contribution for the shipping sector, which I believe is a good one, has already been completed for other sectors, so in a way this represents a kind of catching up. I have listened carefully to the others – especially from the Transport Committee – underlining the necessary transitional measures, because whatever transition you undertake, you will always have something which has a negative influence on others. That is why we believe that we have to help those people, and we foresee with the directive the possibility of complying with the sulphur standards by using alternative abatement methods.

The Commission presented a number of actions for mitigating undesired impacts, as I mentioned in the staff working document. In the short term, it is foreseen to use the existing EU financial instruments and programmes, trans-European transport network and Marco Polo, and possible national State aid funds to support the deployment of new infrastructure and superstructure in support of green ship technology, LNG scrubbers and short-side electricity.

The compromise proposal also contains a provision on financial assistance allowing Member States to grant State aid that is compatible with the EU rules and guidelines. In the longer term, we are considering green technology and alternative fuels (notably LNG), regulatory measures for the safe and secure implementation and use of green technology and alternative fuels, green infrastructure and superstructure, possible economic and funding instruments, public-private partnerships and, of course, as was mentioned, also research and innovation. So all that is foreseen and is important.

I also understand some of you who have had mixed feelings from a geographical point of view. To be clear about the Commission’s position: we believe that the extension of the Sulphur Emission Control Areas – SECAs – to other zones in European waters, especially in the Mediterranean, would yield promising heath benefits. SECAs are a cost-effective tool for addressing air pollution. However, any extension of SECAs would require, in particular, that the Member States themselves introduce such a request to the IMO. Implementing unilateral EU action in this field could be very complex – irrespective of its legal feasibility – and would definitely require further analysis. I would just like to inform you that, apart from the political and legal considerations, the Commission is currently studying the benefits of extending SECAs to all EU territorial waters.

Fourthly, as Mr Groote mentioned, next year, our focus will be on air pollution, and we will come with a review of the air policy, including a review of the NEC Directive. More and more scientific facts clearly show the impact of air pollution on human health, and it is simply impossible to ignore this.

My final comment: as one of your colleagues mentioned, coherence between economic activity and the environment is, of course, of fundamental importance. I think that the proposal which is in front of you is the best example of how to approach in this context the idea that prevention is much better than cure. Thank you again for your work and support. It was excellent work and I hope it will also have your support.


  Satu Hassi, rapporteur. – Mr President, I would like to thank all colleagues for this very constructive discussion.

As several colleagues have mentioned, there will be a difference in environmental requirements for shipping in northern and southern Europe, but this difference already exists. In the Baltic Sea, the English Channel and the North Sea, the sulphur limit for ships is now 1%, while it is 3.5% for the other EU seas. From 2015 onwards, the difference will be even greater. It is very important that the Commission carefully monitors the impact on transport modes, and it should act if there are any signs of a modal shift from shipping to roads. It is also very important that the Commission monitors the impact on industry in the northern European areas.

I agree with everyone who has said that it would be fair in terms of competition, as well as in terms of human health, to have the same limits in northern and southern Europe. Therefore, I very much welcomed what Commissioner Potočnik said. This is actually part of this compromise, namely, that the Commission is studying the impact of extending the 0.1% sulphur limit to all EU territorial seas. I believe that this will prove to be the most cost-effective way to meet the EU air quality standards.

Finally, all experts to whom I have spoken see that LNG gas is the future fuel for shipping. It is both cleaner, meeting all environmental standards, and cheaper. I think that one of the most important measures we need to take is to speed up the LNG fuelling infrastructure in EU harbours. The technology for using LNG in ships exists. In my country, for example, that technology is being produced. I really hope that these new rules will prove to be a boost for greener shipping in Europe.


  President. - The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Tuesday, 11 September, at 12.00.

Written statements (Rule 149)


  Sławomir Witold Nitras (PPE), in writing.(PL) While I am in full sympathy with the proposal to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions from marine fuels, I would like to express certain doubts about this legislation. I do realise the Commission’s calculations are clear in their objective: the monetary value of the benefits of carrying out this reform is expected to exceed the costs by a factor of between two and 25. I am also aware of the fact that no price can be put on human health. However, while the benefits associated with this project are to be enjoyed by all citizens to a certain extent, the costs may end up being concentrated in centres associated with transport and the maritime industry.

It so happens that I come from Szczecin, a city which is quite right to be worried about this. If it is true that the people of such cities in particular are to bear the burden of this directive, serious consideration should be given to adopting measures or instruments designed to ease this situation. Furthermore, I would like to point out that the tenfold reduction in emissions in Sulphur Emission Control Areas – and the Baltic Sea is also part of one such area – is to be delivered as early as 2015. This poses the question as to whether it is technically possible to ensure the supply of sufficient quantities of fuel by this time. I think these reservations are sufficiently serious to make us think carefully about how we vote on this directive.


  Mitro Repo (S&D), in writing. (FI) I am absolutely in favour of environmental protection and health protection. It is important to safeguard the cleanliness and vitality of northern sea areas, but protection should not be introduced at any cost.

The rules on transition are far too stringent for sulphur emissions in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs). For example, Finnish industry will not have time to adjust to the emission restrictions so quickly. The directive will also mean that different Member States of the EU will be treated unequally. This runs counter to the principles on which the internal market operates. Logistical conditions in Finland are already very challenging. As they stand, the regulations will cause the Finnish economy to incur considerable costs. It would be irresponsible to understate the consequences.


  Kathleen Van Brempt (S&D), in writing. (NL) Marine fuel contains, on average, 2 700 times more sulphur than diesel for lorries. As a result, shipping accounts for 30% of sulphur dioxide emissions in the countries bordering the North Sea. The efforts we are making on land are increasingly at risk of being cancelled out as a result of increasing ship emissions. In particular, people with asthma and other lung diseases are suffering due to high sulphur concentrations in the air, accounting for about 50 000 premature deaths in the EU. The estimated cost of this switchover (between EUR 2.6 and 11 billion) will be amply offset by health care savings of around EUR 30 billion. As a result, north-western Europe will be in a win-win situation. The Channel between the United Kingdom and the North Sea coast is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and, because of our geographical location, we experience first-hand the many disadvantages of shipping emissions. In addition, millions of Europeans live close to our major ports. It is good for the competitiveness of our ports that these areas that are subject to stricter conditions should be extended. The need to make use of the more expensive low sulphur fuels will, as a consequence, become less of a competitive disadvantage. At the same time, we need to strengthen our efforts concerning shore-side electricity in ports and the switch to using ships that run on liquid natural gas (LNG), the environmental impact of which is significantly lower.


  Jarosław Leszek Wałęsa (PPE), in writing.(PL) I welcome this proposal to amend legislation related to protection of the environment. The air pollution caused by the sulphur present in marine fuels is an important problem, particularly in view of the solutions currently being applied to land-based sulphur emissions. I think maritime transport needs rules which will reduce the effect of the emission of pollutants both in the maritime environment and on land. The most important challenge is to establish stricter limits on sulphur content: a reduction to 0.1% inside Sulphur Emission Control Areas by 2015, and a reduction to 0.5% outside these areas by 2020.

It is possible for fuel standards and legislation on methods of reducing emissions to be tightened while upholding the principles of sustainable growth. By promoting high standards of environment protection at the same time, Europe will become more competitive. The predicted ecological impact will be similar in northern and southern Europe, so the limits should not differ significantly either. Another important question which we should not forget is passenger ships, which should also be covered by the tougher restrictions. This is because we want to concentrate on ensuring a level playing field to all enterprises regardless of their size, while respecting the environment and the principles of a sustainable economy.

In order to avoid upsetting the balance of competition with countries from outside the European Union, marine fuels which exceed the current maximum 3.5% sulphur content will be permitted for use only by incoming vessels, but only until 2020, and I think this is warranted. Starting from that year, all vessels sailing in EU waters will have to comply with this legislation. To ensure a smooth transition, there are plans for programmes which will facilitate the implementation of methods for reducing emissions.

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