Government to assess impact of shipping emissions limits

The findings of a report suggesting 2015 sulphur reduction requirements could cost UK shipping 2,000 jobs will be considered alongside health impacts in government assessment

An assessment of the UK public health and environment impacts from 2015 international shipping requirements for sulphur exhaust emissions is to be published by the government later this year.

According to transport minister Stephen Hammond, the Department for Transport impact assessment will also consider the economic costs to the UK of further reducing sulphur emissions from shipping, following a recent report suggesting the requirements could cause the loss of 2,000 maritime jobs and increase carbon emissions.

The UK government is to assess the economic and environmental impact of sulphur dioxide regulations from shipping

The UK government is to assess the economic and environmental impact of sulphur dioxide regulations from shipping

Mr Hammond’s announcement came on Monday (March 18) in a written answer following questions submitted to parliament by Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East, Karl Turner, and Hayes and Harlington MP for Labour John McDonnell.

Both had questioned whether the government intended to assess the economic impact on the UK of the sulphur emissions requirements following the UK Chamber of Shipping report, which was published on March 8.

The UK Chamber of Shipping is the trade association for the UK shipping industry and represents around 140 members from across the sector.

2015 requirements

Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions requirements are set out in Annex VI of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)’s International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), which is also linked to the EU Sulphur Content of Marine Fuels Directive (2005/33/EC).

Since July 2010, regulations limit sulphur content in shipping fuels to 1% in many European waters, but from January 1 2015 the sulphur content allowed in shipping fuels will be further reduced to 0.1%.

The UK Chamber of Shipping report showed that the increased costs of using low-sulphur fuel or sulphur reducing technology could result in more freight moving by road and also an increase in road diesel costs, putting 2,000 maritime jobs at risk and contributing to an increase in carbon emissions.

The report also said sulphur emissions-reducing technology, or ‘scrubbers’, were ‘not yet sufficiently proven’, while sulphur-free Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) was ‘not appropriate for most of the existing UK fleet’.

As a result, responding to Mr Turner, Mr Hammond said: “The Department welcomes the report commissioned by the Chamber of Shipping and I will ensure that we will consider its findings carefully.

“The evidence about the impact on employment and freight operations from this and other relevant studies will be incorporated into the Department’s Impact Assessment on the new sulphur requirements, which will be published later this year. Our assessment will also consider the economic cost to the UK as well as the benefits in terms of improved public health and reduced damage to the environment.”

The UK Chamber of Shipping report, ‘Impact on Jobs and the Economy of Meeting the Requirements of the MARPOL Annex VI’, is available on its website.

Last week (March 14) a European Environment Agency report noted that sulphur emissions from shipping had fallen since 1990, but said the shipping sector was still ‘one of the most unregulated sources of air pollution’ (see story).


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Roland Gilmore
Roland Gilmore
11 years ago

The UK Chamber of Shipping report demonstrates that there are a number of issues to meeting compliance criteria that require technical improvement of exhaust gas scrubbers before (notional) emmission limits should be imposed. Hybrid solutions may prove to be the best option in the longer term but more R&D is required.
The European Environment Agency must take a more pragmatic view of their timetable for implimentation. Their first step should focus on regulating emmissions from new ships rather than forcing the adoption of unproven technology upon the existing fleet. Re-engineering and retro fitting anything is always at a higher cost than integrated design and as the report describes, does not necessarily result in the intended outcome.
The cost argument that freight would shift to road transport appears rather tenuous. The loss of jobs claim may also be considered tenuous since if (and it is a big if) some frieght did switch to road transport, there would have to be a corresponding increase in road haulage jobs. Ultimately, unless regulation is applied universally, to both EU and non-EU shipping operating in EU waters, the UK and EU industry will be disadvantaged in the competitive international shipping market. That is where significant job losses could result from implementation of the current legislative framework timetable.
It is encouraging that shipping operators appear generally amenable to reducing the environmental impact of their operations but not at any cost.

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