Two shipping companies reported to the police for sulphur pollution

Published 05-10-2017

The Danish EPA has reported yet another two shipping companies to the police because their ships have been found to emit too much sulphur. A total of 19 shipping companies have now been reported to the police since 2015.

A so-called ‘sniffer’ monitors emissions from the funnels of ships in Danish waters.
A so-called ‘sniffer’ monitors emissions from the funnels of ships in Danish waters. Photo: Chalmers

Over the last two years, a so-called ‘sniffer’ has closely monitored emissions from the funnels of ships in Danish waters. To begin with, monitoring was also performed by a sniffer installed on an aeroplane. This monitoring was recently transferred to a helicopter. Thanks to the overall inspection effort, several ships using high-sulphur fuel have already been tracked down.

The Danish EPA has now reported yet another two ships to the police for emitting too much sulphur, bringing the total number of police reports to 19.

“By far the majority of shipping companies comply with the rules, but unfortunately, some ships still emit too much sulphur. Therefore, we’re putting a lot of effort into inspecting ships in Danish ports and Danish waters, and I’m pleased that our efforts seem to be reaping rewards,” said Sara Røpke, Head of Division at the Danish EPA.

Smoke containing sulphur is harmful to the environment and to human health. In 2015, strict requirements were introduced to reduce sulphur content in smoke from ships in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, and there are strong indications that this has had the intended effect: Since 2015, sulphur content in the air over Denmark has been reduced by more than 50% compared with previous years.

According to the regulations, fuel from ships may not contain more than 0.1% sulphur. Sniffer monitoring provides a much more detailed picture of compliance with the sulphur regulations in Danish waters compared with oil samples alone. However, oil samples are still required as evidence for the police reports.

At the same time, the monitoring helps to ensure equal competition in the shipping industry, as it keeps ships from using cheap fuel with too high sulphur content. According to Danish Shipping, the sector organisation for shipping in Denmark, it is of great importance for the industry that everyone meets the environmental requirements. On 18 September, representatives of Danish Shipping and from the Danish EPA visited the Great Belt Bridge to see the sniffer at work.

“Shipping companies that comply with the regulations become less competitive if other companies are able to cheat the regulations with cheap fuel. There’s a lot of money at stake, because companies can save millions by purchasing cheaper but more polluting fuel. Therefore, we’re pleased about the persistent efforts aimed at ships breaking the rules. The positive Danish experience from enforcing the regulations must be applied at international level when the regulations take effect globally,” said Maria Bruun Skipper, Director at Danish Shipping. 

The sulphur requirement of max. 0.1% in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are stricter than in many other places, but also at global level, more stringent environmental requirements are underway. From 2020, ships will not be allowed to use fuel with a sulphur content of more than 0.5%, compared with the present 3.5%. In the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and in the waters around North America, the threshold will remain at 0.1%, also after 2020.

Read more about the Danish EPA’s work on reducing air pollution from shipping

Additional information: 
Sara Røpke, Head of Division at the Danish EPA, tel.: +45 4178 2039, e-mail: