Reducing shipping emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency is working to ensure compliance with the stringent international regulation on air pollution from ships.

International action

In the International Maritime Organization under the UN Denmark and other countries agree on common rules for the limitation of air pollution from shipping.

Denmark has been very active in the negotiations of limits for the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and Sulphur oxides (SOx) from shipping. In 2008 the negotiations led to new stricter rules, which will dramatically reduce emissions from all ships, independent of the flag they fly.

More information on the rules at the IMO website.

Reduction of nitrogen oxides

The rules of the IMO will lead to a drastic decrease in emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from new ships. From 2011 emissions had to be reduced by 15-25 % compared to the previous limits. By 2016 the NOx-emission from new ships had to be reduced by a further 75 % compared to the previous level, when sailing in coastal NOx Emission Control Areas (NECA) – "low emission zones" at sea.

From 2016 the coastal areas of the US and Canada have been designated as NECAs. Since January 1st 2021 the North Sea and the Baltic Sea have too been designated as NECAs.

Reduction of Sulphur and particulate matter

As a result of the IMO rules the Sulphur content in marine fuels will also be reduced. This will reduce the emission of Sulphur oxides (SOx) and particulate matter from ships.

The international agreement in IMO requires the following in respect to Sulphur content in marine fuels:

  • Since January 1st 2015 the maximum Sulphur content of marine fuels in SOx Emission Control Areas (SECA) is 0,1 %.
  • The Baltic Sea and the North Sea including internal Danish waters are designated as SECA areas along with US and Canadian coastal waters.
  • The global limit regarding Sulphur content in marine fuels was January 1st 2020 reduced from 3,5 % to 0,5 %.
  • As an alternative to low Sulphur fuel oil it is allowed to use alternative fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) or biofuels or install an exhaust gas cleaning system, which removes SOx.

The IMO agreement on the Sulphur content in marine fuels is implemented in Danish regulation by statutory order no. 1220 of 22 November 2019 (in Danish).

EU has passed the Sulphur directive, which ensures that the IMO regulation on the Sulphur content of marine fuels is implemented in all EU countries.

Scrubbers as an alternative to low Sulphur fuel oil

The emission of Sulphur oxides can be reduced by cleaning of the exhaust with a scrubber, which washes SOx out of the exhaust gas with water.

Use of both open and closed loop scrubbers are allowed in Danish waters, provided they do not impact vulnerable nature areas, harbours etc. in a negative way.