Sulphur dioxide emissions from shipping have sharply decreased in EU ports thanks to stricter EU rules for sulphur content in fuels used by ships at berth or at anchor in ports. Scientists at the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Commission's in-house science service, measured key air quality parameters in Mediterranean harbours before and after the entry into force of the low-sulphur requirements in January 2010.
They found that in the EU harbours Civitavecchia (IT), Savona (IT), Barcelona (ES) and Palma de Mallorca (ES), the concentration of sulphur dioxide had fallen by 66% on average. Sulphur dioxide is one of the main chemicals responsible for formation of acid rain and particulate air pollution, posing risks to human health and the environment. Measurements taken in the port of Tunis, where the EU rules do not apply, showed that levels of this noxious substance remained the same.
The JRC study published today in the scientific journal Atmospheric Environment confirms that the decreases in sulphur dioxide and consequently the improvement of the air quality in harbours are a direct consequence of the application of EU requirements. The air quality measurements were carried out using an automated monitoring station on the cruise ship Costa Pacifica which followed a fixed weekly route in the Western Mediterranean during 2009 and 2010.