Chalmers researchers confirm my fears from 2014 regarding cheating on ships' sulphur emissions

By: Thomas Ström 10/24/18

Now there’s proof of what I predicted here on the blog in 2014 and 2015.
Researchers at Chalmers have found that shipping companies are cheating on Northern Europe's sulphur emissions regulations.
In extensive remote measurements made by the researchers with their own method, it appears that every tenth ship is in violation of Northern Europe's sulphur emission regulations.
"Some shipping companies seem to have put it in system to cheat," says Johan Mellqvist, Assistant Professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg.
"We can see clear differences in compliance depending on who owns the vessels.”

Chalmers researchers have developed their own monitoring system. It is based on air measurements with a sniffer, which creates a physical and chemical analysis of the air. The sniffer is then supplemented with other technologies, such as optical remote sensing and automatic ship identification systems.

The air measurements are made both at fixed stations at the port of Gothenburg and the bridges across the Sound and the Great Belt, as well as from an airplane that moves around Denmark and across the English Channel.

The system developed by the group at Chalmers presents good results. The system has actually been put to use for sulphur emission monitoring in a number of countries.
During its test period, the researchers have found that there is a lot of cheating in the northern European so-called "sulphur emission control area" (Seca). What is remarkable is that it is not about random variations. The violations follow clear patterns.
"We can see that rarely incoming ships, including cruise ships, violate the rules more often. Also, it is more common for ships to release too much sulphur on their way out of the area than on their way in, as they risk an inspection on board",  says Johan Mellqvist.

In the eastern part of the English Channel, near Seca's border, 15 percent of the ships violate the rules. Around Denmark that number is 10 percent and at the fixed stations it is 2-5 percent.

Nevertheless, the shipping companies can save a lot of money when breaking the rules, according to Professor Johan Mellqvist. He believes, among other things, that the more expensive low sulphur fuel can provide additional costs of 1 million SEK for just a return trip between England and Saint Petersburg.

For my part, I am behind the new monitoring system to 100 percent. What the researchers have now confirmed, I already predicted in 2014.

Here is a selection of those blog posts:

The new directive regarding sulphur regulation will be in force from January 1st of 2015. This means that the sulphur content of the flue gas from all the ships in Northern Europe must reduce their emissions from the current permissible level of 1.0 percent to 0.1 percent.
But since there will be no follow-ups, I am certain many shipping companies will ignore the directive and still charge higher fees even though they have not made the investments in environment as required by the directive. 
Because the big question is: How will this new directive regarding sulphur regulation be regulated and by whom?
As of today, there is no one. 

I am convinced very few of the companies will carry these environmental investments through, which is a necessity for this to become a reality. And why won’t they do it? Well, there are no helpful tools and no authority has been appointed responsible for ensuring that the new rules are followed.  
For NTEX, the new directive will lead to distinctively higher costs for freight across the North Sea, and above all, the Baltic Sea. We are talking about several millions Swedish crowns which we will have to invest in our transportation fleet. In the end this affects the customers.