Low sulphur norms: action needed at the eleventh hour

07 Mar 2014

Priorities must be set to smoothen the introduction of low sulphur norms in Northern Europe: establishing a fair level playing field is one of them. With the 1 January 2015 deadline elapsing in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECA) in less than ten months from now, there is no time to lose.

This was the core message ECSA Secretary General Patrick Verhoeven gave earlier this week in his keynote speech at the Clean Shipping Conference. The conference is part of Baltic Transport Week, a leading logistics event held annually in the Baltic port city of Gdansk.

“With the SECA implementation date approaching fast, there is a lot of talk about monitoring and enforcing compliance”, said Patrick Verhoeven,  “I would make a plea for a playing field that is level but fair. It means first of all that the early adopters, those operators that completed all the investments and are ready to meet the sulphur norms in time, are not penalised. But it equally means that those that can demonstrate that they made the necessary commitments to meet the norms, but may not be entirely ready by the time the deadline elapses for technical or other good reasons, are given a compliance path within a limited and conditional timeframe.”

“This key point must be discussed in the context of the European Commission’s European Sustainable Shipping Forum, of which ECSA is an active member. Other issues need priority attention as well, such as the need to clarify financial support options and legal certainty on applicable rules and regulations in ports. The sense of urgency in getting clear answers on these issues cannot be underlined enough”, added Patrick Verhoeven, who concluded his intervention at Baltic Transport Week with a reflection on lessons to be learned from the sulphur debate: “Let’s just say that, for a variety of reasons, this file does not deserve a beauty prize. What we can learn from it is that we need genuine international rules, also within an IMO context, proper impact assessments and a less defensive attitude from industry. Considering the uniquely positive role we play for society at large, providing so much of what people consume and use in their daily lives at such a low cost, I think we are doing quite well in terms of overall sustainability. But we need to be out there telling that story much better.”

The full text of Patrick Verhoeven’s speech can be downloaded from the ECSA website here

More information on Baltic Transport Week can be found here


For more information please contact:

Benoît Loicq, Director – Maritime Safety and Environment, Phone + 32 2 510 61 25,


Dimitrios Banas, Manager – Communication and Information, Passenger Transport, Phone +32 2 510 61 22,