Reducing shipping emissions

Ships must emit fewer hazardous substances to the air. Therefore 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, tighter 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 have to be reduced by a further 75 % compared to the present level, when sailing in costal NOx Emission Control Areas (NECA) – ‘low emission zones’ at sea.

The US and Canada have already decided to designate their coastal areas as a NECAs. Denmark is working in HELCOM to designate the entire Baltic Sea a NECA.

Denmark is also working to designate the North Sea as a NECA. The group of North Sea has carried out a number of assessments on the economic and environmental consequences of establishing a North Sea NECA:

Sulphur and particulate matter

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 the IMO sets the following requirements to the sulphur content of marine fuels:

  • In SOx Emission Control Areas (SECA) the maximum sulphur content of marine fuels is 1 % (compared to 1,5 % before 1 January 2010). From 1 January 2015 the limit will be 0.1 %.
  • The Baltic Sea and the North Sea including internal Danish waters are designated as SECA's together with US and Canadian coastal waters.
  • The global limit was reduced from 4,5 % to 3,5 % in 2012 and the limit will be reduced to 0,5 % by 2020. There is however a review clause stating that if there is a lack of available fuel with a sulphur content of 0,5 % in 2020, the limit can first be applied 2025.
  • As 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 of marine fuel is implemented in Danish regulation by statutory order no. 640 of 12 June 2014 (in Danish).

In 2012 the EU passed the sulphur directive which ensures that the IMO regulation on the sulphur content of marine fuels is implemented in all EU countries. The directive does not allow the postponing of the 0.5 % limit value to 2025.

Scrubbers as an alterative to low sulphur fuel oil

The emission of sulphur oxides can be reduced by cleaning of the exhaust with a "scrubber", which washes SOx and particulate matter out of the exhaust gas with water.

The Danish EPA has supported a project on installation of a scrubber on the vessel Ficaria Seaways.

The Danish EPA has also carried out an assessment of possible impacts of scrubber water discharges on the marine environment. A supplementary note contains more details on  the effect of scrubbers on the pH value at busy trafic lanes.