New EU environmental rules for cleaner fuels for shipping come into effect

The new European environmental rules on marine fuels came into force on December 17th 2012. The aim of these new standards is to improve the environmental conditions of marine corridors by reducing air pollution and its impact on human health.

In accordance to the new standards set forth in EU Directive 2012/33/EU regarding the sulphur content of marine fuels, vessels may apply equivalent compliance methods such as gas cleaning systems or employ LNG-powered ships, i.e. vessels using liquefied natural gas as fuel. The requirements to reduce air pollutants in marine fuels are applied in accordance to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards.

These new EU rules aim to progressively reduce the maximum sulphur content in such fuels from the current 3.5% to 0.5% in January 2020. This reduction will be even more intense in the case of some fragile areas which in some cases also bear a heavy maritime traffic such as the North Sea or the English Channel.

In order to facilitate the implementation of these measures, both the available funding instruments for transport such as the EU Programme in support to the trans-European transport network TEN-T and the Marco Polo Programme, as well as the European Investment Bank (EIB), will provide financial support for marine ecological projects. Moreover, the Commission will support actions to promote the use of fuels such as LNG shipping and will continue to implement measures in the medium and long term to promote ecological naval technology, alternative fuels and to promote green transport infrastructure in collaboration with industry and Member States.