Plunge in vessel sulphur emissions in the Baltic Sea

9/5/16, 6:00 PM

The introduction of stricter regulations on the sulphur content of fuel used on the Baltic Sea since 1 January 2015 has yielded results. A report drawn up for Trafi by the Finnish Meteorological Institute reveals a marked fall in sulphur emissions in the Baltic Sea area. Since the beginning of 2015, the maximum permissible sulphur content of marine fuels has been 0.1%, whereas the previous limit was 1.0%.

Trafi has been funding annual reports by the Finnish Meteorological Institute on harmful maritime exhaust emissions in the Baltic Sea (SOx, NOx, CO, CO2 and PM emissions) since 2007, reporting its findings to the HELCOM Maritime Conference. Such information has been used for purposes such as drawing up the Baltic Sea states' joint proposal to the IMO for the designation of the Baltic Sea as an NOx (nitrogen oxide) Emission Control Area (NECA).

Reduction in fine particle emissions as well as sulphur

"We are delighted that the reduction in the sulphur content of marine fuel has yielded results. In 2015, emissions of sulphur oxide, or SOx from ships amounted to 10,300 tonnes and fine particle emissions to 10,400 tonnes. Compared to 2014, these have fallen by 88% in the case of sulphur oxide emissions and 36% in fine particle emissions, which is due to a reduction in the sulphur content of fuel. On the other hand, ship emissions of NOx and CO2 increased by 6.3% and 5.6% in 2015 compared to the previous year," says Jorma Kämäräinen, a Chief Adviser from Trafi.

Supervision of the sulphur content of marine fuel, based on port state control by Trafi, has also played a part in reducing sulphur emissions since Trafi began the practice in 2015. Remote supervision, which has enabled the coverage of many more times the number of vessels than otherwise, has enhanced control of the situation since July 2016.

Much remains to be done to reach maritime emission reduction targets

Changes in the environmental regulation of shipping have ensured a drop in the quantities of harmful fine particles emitted in this sector. However, much work remains to be done in improving the energy efficiency of, and minimising greenhouse gas emissions from, maritime transport, given the challenging nature of the emission reduction targets planned for the sector.

"The long lifespan – 25–30 years – of ships means that the lifespan of technical solutions for reducing emissions is also long. With respect to the change in the sulphur limit, in the other hand, the effects on emissions are immediate, because they are directly targeted at the fuel used by ships regardless of their year of construction," says Jukka-Pekka Jalkanen, Senior Researcher at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Additional information is available from:

The report 'Emissions from Baltic Sea shipping in 2015' to be published on Tuesday 6 September 2016 at the HELCOM Maritime Conference, after which it can be read in its entirety on the organisation's website.

Jorma Kämäräinen, Chief Adviser, tel. +358 29 5346 440, jorma.kamarainen(at)

The Finnish Meteorological Institute
Jukka-Pekka Jalkanen, Senior Researcher, tel. +358 50 919 5455, jukka-pekka.jalkanen(at)