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Maritime Sulphur Regulation: How can effective highseas enforcement be achieved?

  • Best Western Park Hotel 21 Avenue de l'Yser Etterbeek, Bruxelles, 1040 Belgium (map)

Hosted by the Trident Alliance

Stricter limits for sulphur in marine fuels were agreed in the new Sulphur Directive 2012/33 which entered into force on 1st January 2015. All ships sailing in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel are directly affected.

Generally, the shipping industry is committed to respecting the new rules, but has major concerns regarding enforcement of the regulation. Robust enforcement is necessary to achieve the intended benefits to health and the environment, but is also critical to ensuring fair competition.

Compliance comes at unprecedented expense. For example, switching to lower sulphur fuel currently almost doubles fuel costs. By the Commission’s own reckoning compliance testing has been running at a level of only 1/1000 vessels. Such high costs coupled with weak enforcement, undoubtedly creates a temptation not to comply.

Individual Member States may be stepping up enforcement efforts in their territorial waters, but the effectiveness of enforcement on the high seas beyond those waters, yet still within the regulated area, is much in doubt. How and by whom will compliance tests on the high seas be undertaken? Furthermore, conflicts of interests could lead to some authorities feeling less compelled to impose sufficiently dissuasive sanctions. .

In this context, and two months after the entry into force of the new sulphur limits, the Trident  Alliance would very much welcome the opportunity to take stock and discuss with key regulatory stakeholders how a level playing field is ensured by robust and regular enforcement.


  • Mr. Bill Hemmings, Programme Manager – Aviation & Shipping at Transport & Environment 
  • Benoît Loicq, European Community Shipowners’ Associations, Director - Maritime Safety and Environment
  • Mr. Kristian Teleki, Director of Global Engagement for the Global Ocean Commission
  • Roger Strevens, Chairman, Trident Alliance

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