Following the recent European sustainable shipping forum in Brussels at the end of June, secretary general of the European community ship owners association (ECSA) Patrick Verhoeven has urged "the European commission and member states to clarify the directive lest some operators start retrofitting their ships too late to be compliant… by 1 January 2015".
The new EU rules state that ships sailing in sulphur emissions control areas, which include the English Channel, the North Sea and Baltic Sea, can only use fuels with a maximum sulphur content of 0.1 per cent.
"We urge the European commission and member states to clarify the [sulphur] directive lest some operators start retrofitting their ships too late to be compliant... by 1 January 2015" - Patrick Verhoeven
To help ships meet these new requirements, the European commission has encouraged the installation of scrubber exhaust gas filters, but, both the ECSA and also the European sea ports organisation (ESPO) have warned of a "lack of clarity in EU rules [that] jeopardises their use".
The ECSA and ESPO pointed to inconsistencies in legislation between the member states, saying, "some countries allow water discharges close to their shore, others don't, while others apply strict conditionality".
Adding to the maritime industry's anxiety over the implementation of the new sulphur emission rules is confusion over water discharges from scrubber filters under the provision of the EU water directive.
"Due to the lack of accurate information on the composition of these discharges, there is currently a very high uncertainty on whether the operation of scrubbers will be allowed in close proximity to the shore," said ECSA and ESPO.
ESPO secretary general Isabelle Ryckbost said that since "the European commission is actively promoting scrubbers as one of the solutions… it is time to replace question marks with clear answers.
"Policymakers should work towards a more coherent approach both at an EU and national level as there are concerns under the conditions which this technology can be used."
"The European commission is actively promoting scrubbers as one of the solutions… it is time to replace question marks with clear answers" - Isabelle Ryckbost
Verhoeven warned that, "Not only does the current uncertainty jeopardise investments already made by operators, it also hampers the commissioning of future installations."
Conference of peripheral maritime regions of Europe (CPMR) director for transport Patrick Anvroin defended the European commission, pointing to the availability of EU funds for helping the shipping industry adapt to the new directive.
However, he did admit that the commission should make available a 'guide book' on the different funding opportunities available for helping ship owners install filters.
Anvroin told this magazine, "A number of EU tools can be mobilised, but without a clear presentation in a single document of how they operate separately and in association; ship owners, regional authorities and port authorities may lose out on opportunities."
"The maritime transport sector has already faced access difficulty in the past, and is particularly concerned not to face this again."