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Joint letter to MEPs on air pollution from ships

Berlin, 29 November 2011

To: Members of European Parliament; Committee for Environment, Health & Public Safety; Committee for Transport & Tourism

Re: Amendment of Directive 1999/32/EC: The EU should fully transpose IMO Marpol Annex VI and support the implementation of stricter standards on the sulphur content of marine fuels.

Dear members of the Committee for Environment, Health and Public Safety
Dear members of the Committee for Transport and Tourism,

The signatories of this letter, representing various European environmental, health and labor associations, would like to express their deep concern at recent calls from certain (shipping) industry groups to weaken stricter rules on the sulphur content of marine fuels due to enter into effect in 2015 in European Emission Control Areas (ECAs). These calls amount to an open attack on existing regulations that are essential for our health and environment.

Conversion to low sulphur marine fuels is environmentally necessary and long overdue. Bunker fuel currently used in shipping is essentially toxic waste. The stricter IMO (International Maritime Organization) standards have been known since 2008. They were strongly and publicly supported by the EU when adopted unanimously at the IMO into international law. They are therefore binding on all 23 EU Member States that ratified the relevant (MARPOL) IMO Convention1.

The European Union must clearly stand behind the new sulphur requirements, which set a 0.1% sulphur limit in designated ECAs in 2015 as well as a global 0.5% limit in 2020.

More and more ship builders and owners have already reacted and invested in cleaner and more efficient ship technologies in anticipation of the new regulations. Why should the early movers be penalized by governments bowing to sections of industry by delaying implementation of the new limit values or reverting to old standards?

The use of low sulphur distillate fuel also provides good incentives for reducing fuel consumption and is a prerequisite for the use of particle filters, which can reduce particulate matter (PM) by up to 99%. The new limits are therefore an important step to reduce overall ship emissions.

Ideally we should have ECAs all around Europe; the Mediterranean alone accounts for half of all EU ship emissions. Designation needs to be done via the IMO. To achieve this, the European Commission needs to provide the leadership and technical advice to support those Member States proposing to designate additional ECAs. The successful joint proposal of the United States and Canada for the designation of a distance-to-shore ECA covering the sea area out to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from their coast (entering into force next year) and the consideration of Japan and Hong-Kong to implement ECAs shows that the EU should also take a comprehensive approach to create the same environmental and economic conditions in all European sea areas. Conversely if the EU as a whole or a single Member State were to step back from global regulations already adopted at the IMO this would send a disastrous signal to the IMO and every other nation heading for clean shipping.

The proposed amendments to the directive2 will also underpin port state authority to police the new regulations. The health and environmental benefits of coastal ECAs in Europe would be outstanding. Tightened emission and fuel standards will help the shipping industry to develop more fuel and energy efficient ships and become a lead market for cleaner shipping.

In view of the public interest in this matter we are making a copy available to certain media. Thank you for your attention to this important and urgent matter. On behalf of the supporters and the signatories of this letter,

Yours sincerely,

Olaf Tschimpke, President NABU e.V. on behalf of the Soot free for the Climate Campaign

Meinhard Geiken, Regional head IG Metall Bezirk Küste (Industrial Metal Workers’ Union Coastal Region)

Supporting organizations:

  • Soot free for the Climate Campaign
  • Friends of the Earth, Germany
  • German Environmental Aid, Germany
  • Verkehrsclub Germany
  • Nature and Biodiversity Conversion Union, Germany
  • World Wide Fund For Nature, European Policy Office, Brussels
  • European Environmental Bureau, Europe, Brussels
  • Health and Environmental Alliance, Europe, Brussels
  • Transport and Environment,Europe, Brussels
  • Air Pollution and Climate Secretariat, Sweden
  • Fédération France Nature Environnement, France
  • Stichting Natuur en Milieu, Netherlands
  • Verkehrsclub Austria
  • Det Økologiske Råd, Danmark
  • IG Metall Bezirk Küste/ Industrial Metal Workers’ Union Coastal Region, Germany
  • Fédération Générale des Mines et de la Métallurgie (FGMM-CFDT), France
  • Federacion de industria, Spain
  • Federatie Nederlandse Vakverenigingen (FNV) Bondgenoten, Netherlands

1 Annex VI to the MARPOL Convention, adopted in 1997, entry into force in 2005

2 set out in COM(2011)0439

View signed letter here.

Last updated on 13 December 2011

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