Denmark Investigates Firms for Fuel Sulfur Violations
The Danish Ministry of Environment and Food, the national agency tasked with administering emissions regulations, reported Monday that five shipping firms have been referred to the police for further investigation of alleged fuel sulfur content violations.
Since January 2015, MARPOL ECA requirements for the North and Baltic Seas have restricted the quantity of sulfur in marine fuels burned while operating in the region. The Danish Maritime Authority has recently intensified its inspections program for the ECA, leading to the identification of five unnamed firms allegedly found to be non-compliant with the new sulfur content rules.
The scope of non-compliance for the firms was between twenty percent over the allowed limit to nearly nine times the allowed limit.
"Control and enforcement sulfur regulations is important – both for our health, for the environment and to avoid unequal competition for law-abiding companies. The economic gain of cheating is great," said minister Esben Lunde Larsen.
The findings are based on fuel samples taken from ships in Danish ports; 200 such samples have been taken since the new regulation took effect. In addition, Denmark operates a sulfur "air sniffer" to detect improper levels of SOx in exhaust plumes. One of the devices is fitted to the Great Belt Bridge and another to a small aircraft. Investigators can then follow up with suspect vessels in port state control inspections.
Police investigators will now determine whether to bring charges against any of the firms in question.
In the past, some have warned that the fines – and the likelihood of getting caught – are low enough in the EU that there is a significant financial incentive to cheat on the requirements. In the U.S., civil penalties for breaches of ECA sulfur rules are as much as $25,000 instance per day, and are designed to deter future violations.