The European Union’s (EU) policy that ships docking at European harbors utilize fuels with less than 0.1% sulphur content by weight as opposed to the 4.5% sulphur content allowed previously in areas outside the realm of Sulphur Emission Control came into effect from January 2010.
Sulphur dioxide is a noxious chemical posing great hazard to health and environment. In order to gauge the effectiveness of the policy, the air quality before and after the policy came into effect has been monitored by an automated monitoring system aboard a cruise ship, Costa Pacifica which has been traversing a fixed route every week in the West Mediterranean sea in 2009 and 2010. Scientists from the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission found that sulphur dioxide emissions have drastically fallen by 66%.
The measurements spanned across four harbors of which the three, Palma de Mallorca, Savona and Civitavecchia showed a marked decrease in sulphur content. The results at Barcelona were not conclusive owing to daily variations in the sulphur dioxide concentrations. The decrease in sulphur emissions in Barcelona was however confirmed by measurements carried out at independent monitoring stations. As proof of the role played by the EU policy in bringing about a reduction in sulphur emission, measurements carried out at non-EU ports such as the harbor of Tunis showed no reduction in sulphur content of the air. Further, in the ports that demonstrated a reduction in sulphur content, there was no indication of reduction in content of other pollutants.