• Professional News
  • 30 January 2015

How to enforce new sulphur requirements of the shipping industry

As from 1 January 2015, the sulphur emissions from vessels are limited to 0.1% when operating in particular environmental zones in Northern Europe and North America. The US has already introduced effective inspections and large fines, whereas EU guidelines remain unclear.

From the turn of the year, shipping companies operating in the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, the English Channel and North America must reduce sulphur emissions by 90%. The new requirements mean that the sulphur emissions of vessels sailing in the environmental zones cannot exceed 0.1%. 

Danish shipping industry and other players have expressed their intentions to fulfil such new requirements. The industry, however, faces the challenge of having to pay considerable expenses by using green fuels or scrubbers.

Enforcement of the new rules must be guaranteed throughout the EU in order to avoid distortion of competition. Therefore, the EU has imposed an obligation on all Member States to annually monitor 10% of all vessels calling at their ports. In addition to monitoring the sulphur emissions of vessels, authorities must also inspect the logs and bunker delivery notes of the vessels. As from 2016, such monitoring will be increased, and the Member States must also take oil samples from the vessels.

Sniffers and drones
Denmark has already researched how to ensure efficient monitoring systems as a supplement to the monitoring of vessels conducted at ports of entry. The Ministry of the Environment has made such monitoring subject to tender procedures, which are expected to be completed at the end of the first quarter.

Bids for monitoring equipment include the use of so-called "sniffers" on the Great Belt Bridge detecting too high sulphur emissions from vessels and flying drones to measure exhaust gasses. Such initiatives will ensure enforcement of the new sulphur requirements and provide documentation to be used by relevant authorities for assessing amounts of fines.

Consistent Americans
The Americans have been quick to implement such monitoring systems.

On 15 January 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency, the US equivalent of the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, issued guidelines for the US authorities' enforcement of the new sulphur requirements.  These guidelines include instructions for how to judge violations of law and procedures for authorities' monitoring thereof.

The US Coast Guard will specifically have to perform coordinated efforts to ensure efficient inspections of vessels and monitoring of their sulphur emissions. This monitoring will take considerable effort and will ensure investigations which may result in large fines to be imposed on shipping companies not fulfilling the requirements. The general rule will be that authorities may issue daily fines of up to USD 25,000 per violation.

The amount of such fines will, however, be subject to specific assessment including several regards, such as the facts of the case, the extent of the violation and previous violations. With a view to determining the proper financial sanctions, the authorities will also look at the degree of guilt and negligence on the part of the shipping company, its willingness to cooperate and ability to pay.

Considering the tightened monitoring requirements and the strict financial sanctions for non-fulfilment of the sulphur requirements, the US authorities expect shipping companies to introduce statutory compliance procedures soon.

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