‘Global sulphur limit for ships will save 140.000 lives’
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed two years ago that by 2020 a new standard for sulphur limit for boat fuel would be applied worldwide, dropping from 3,5% to 0,5% outside of designated Emission Control Areas.
The University of Delaware calculated it would save at least 140.000 people per year and half the number of infantile asthma cases.
While every sector is affected by new strengthened pollution standards, maritime transport seems to be the only yet unharmed. The major reason being the difficulty to regulate on international waters.
Yet, maritime pollution has dramatic effects. The University of Delaware has calculated that it causes 403.300 premature deaths per year and that it is responsible for 14 million infantile asthma cases.
3,5% to 0,5%
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has therefore decided to introduce a new pollution standard in 2020. The sulphur limit for boat fuel will be dropped from 3,5% to 0,5%. By comparison, the limit for car diesel fuel is set at 0,001% or 500 times lower.
Still, the University of Delaware calculated that this lowering would save at least 140.000 per year by 2020. In Europe, standards are stricter, especially in the designated Emission Control Areas in the North and Baltic Seas where the limit is set at 0,1%.
NGOs are campaigning for the creation of other low emission zones. France is in favour of such a zone in the Mediterranean Sea, it could prevent 1.730 premature deaths per year. It would cost around 1,4 million euro. A dossier will be filed to the IMO in 2020.
Reducing the amount of sulphur in boat fuel will cost maritime companies money. While the ship doesn’t need any kind of tuning, the cost comes from the fuel. Sources of low sulphur unrefined diesel are low, so companies will have to get a more refined fuel, which costs more.
“A Calais-Dover ferry emits every year as much sulphur as 400.000 cars”, explains Faig Abbasov, shipping officer at Transport & Environment. “The amount of sulphur in boat fuel has to be dropped to 0,001%, as it is for cars.”
However, that won’t happen tomorrow. The drop to 0,5% already took two years of negotiation after countries such as Saudi Arabia, India, Bangladesh or Brazil opposed to it.
While the sulphur limit was hard to pass, the matter of NOx is a different kettle of fish. Experts point out that we might have to wait thirty years before this pollution lowers.
Lower CO2 levels per ton
While ships emit huge quantities of harmful pollutants, the level of CO2 per ton for maritime transport is still lower than road or air transport. However, more efforts could easily be done.
“In the short term, the speed of ships should be reduced. The impact is huge. A reduction of 10% in speed implies a 30% CO2 reduction”, notes Faig Abbasov.