Emissions of air pollutants like sulphur dioxide can travel long distances. In recent years, emissions from maritime transport have increasingly affected air quality in the EU. Therefore, EU has developed dedicated legislation to deal with some of the most important air pollutants: Sulphur Oxide (SOx), Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC).
Air pollution from maritime transport including Sulphur Oxide (SOx), Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) or Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), is high in the agenda both at global and European level. The reason for this is that Sulphur and Nitrogen Oxides emissions from shipping were increasing while those from land based sources were actually decreasing.
Air pollution is an emergent problem for human health, since it is estimated that smokestack emissions from international shipping affect the health and contribute to the mortality of people living in Europe. Other problems associated to air pollution include eutrophication, acidification, forest damage or corrosion to old buildings, bridges, monuments, rock carvings etc.
Globally, air pollution is regulated by the IMO through the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). Annex VI of MARPOL entered into force in 2005, among other things with the aim of minimising airborne emissions from ships.
At EU level, considerable effort has been made in curbing sulphur emissions. In 2008, the Commission called for further action at the IMO which resulted in an amended Annex VI lowering the maximum permissible sulphur content of marine fuels inside and outside SECAs. The limits introduced were in line with EU legislation.
EMSA actively assists the Commission in this field and provides technical assistance also to the Member States during the implementation of air pollution related EU legislation. The measures so far undertaken are expected to have a significant beneficial impact on the environment and on human health, particularly for those people living in port cities and coastal communities.