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Pressrelease | 2023-03-07

EU research project finds high nitrogen oxides emissions of Tier III vessels

The EU research project SCIPPER has found high nitrogen oxides emissions of Tier III vessels from remote measurement in the Baltic Sea and North Sea. The analysis shows that 50 per cent of the emission measurements of ships that had to comply with the latest Tier III nitrogen levels, far exceed the expected emission levels.

– The finding raises concerns on the effectiveness of the regulation for shipping and, if further confirmed, overall jeopardizes the targets of environmental policies in the sensitive area of the Baltic Sea and North Sea, which are included in the NOx Emission Control Area, says Erik Fridell, researcher at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and one of the work package leaders of SCIPPER.

The EU H2020 SCIPPER project comprised an international consortium of academic, research and private sector partners to study various methods and strategies for the monitoring of pollutant emissions from maritime vessels towards enforcement of environmental regulations.

Emissions of ships are important to monitor due to their growing share to air pollution over land and their contribution to eutrophication. Therefore, NOx control was added to the European sulfur emission control area in 2021. This means that engines installed on ships constructed from 2021 onwards must comply with the significantly stricter Tier III limits for engines when sailing in the North Sea and Baltic Seas, according to MARPOL regulation. So far, the number of ships which need to comply with Tier III regulations is limited but growing.

In SCIPPER, the combined dataset for the Baltic Sea and North Sea contains 65 emission measurements on Tier III ships during 2022. Remotely measuring the pollutants concentration in the exhaust plume of vessels is a reliable way to monitor emissions in real sailing conditions. The monitoring data compiled within SCIPPER originate from three fixed monitoring stations (on the Great Belt Bridge, in Wedel near Hamburg, and around Rotterdam port) and from airborne drone-based measurements over the Danish waters.

A similar pattern was observed in all locations: only about one-third of NOx measurements were within the expected Tier III levels. One hand, this demonstrates that NOx emission control can be effective under real sailing conditions. On the other hand, about 50 per cent of measurements of Tier III vessels indicate emission levels that are more than a factor of two, and up to a factor five, higher than the expected Tier II levels.

– We need to raise awareness on potential shortcomings related to the effectiveness of Tier III NOx regulation for vessels. Otherwise, significant negative impacts may be observed in the air quality of coastal and other affected regions, says Erik Fridell.

The SCIPPER consortium would like to call on international bodies and national authorities to introduce enforcement requirements and to monitor NOx emissions levels of Tier III compliant vessels in real use. More information can be obtained at the SCIPPER website scipper-project.eu External link, opens in new window. and specifically Deliverable 5.5 External link, opens in new window..

For more information, please contact:
Erik Fridell, erik.fridell@ivl.se, +46 (0)10 788 67 99


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