Since the turn of the year, ships have had to comply with new and stricter environmental requirements. As a result, the amount of harmful sulphur in the air over Denmark has more than halved. An 'artificial nose' fitted on the Great Belt Bridge is checking whether ships are complying with the rules.
New international regulations require ships in the North Sea and Baltic Sea to run on clean fuels with a low content of sulphur.
To stop ships from ignoring the rules and continuing to pollute using illicit fuels, the Ministry of the Environment and Food has intensified its ship pollution control. An 'artificial nose' - called a sniffer - has been fitted on the Great Belt Bridge. The nose can detect when ships passing under the bridge are using the wrong type of fuel.
Sulphur reduction by 60%
The first air measurements from the sniffer reveal that 98% of ships are complying with the sulphur requirements. Furthermore, according to a new report from the Danish Centre for Environment and Energy (DCE) at Aarhus University, the content of sulphur in the air over Denmark has been reduced by up to 60% overall since the turn of the year.
"Sulphur and particles are harmful to humans, so it is good news that the new environmental requirements are having an effect. Denmark is the first country in the world to apply new technology in efforts to monitor pollution from ships and to make sure that everyone is meeting the requirements. The financial benefits of non-compliance with the rules are huge, and control and enforcement are therefore vital elements in preventing harmful pollution from ships and unfair competition for law-abiding ship owners," said Minister for the Environment and Food, Eva Kjer Hansen.
The extra costs of fuel depend on the size and speed of the ship and can amount to as much as DKK one million for a trip from the English Channel to the Baltic Sea and back.
Monitoring is not only done from the Great Belt Bridge. A small aircraft has also been fitted with a sniffer to monitor ships sailing through the major shipping lanes in Danish waters. If sniffer measurements show that a ship is using illicit fuels, the authorities in the next port of call will be notified so that they can put a stop to the breach.
The sniffer technology has been developed by the Swedish Chalmers University of Technology. The Ministry of the Environment and Food is funding the DKK 6.3-million monitoring effort.
"Danish ship owners are fully behind the new requirements, and I highly appreciate the close cooperation on control and enforcement between the Ministry for the Environment and Food and the Danish Shipowners' Association within the framework of the Green Shipping Partnership. It is vital for the industry that we have efficient and effective enforcement internationally, so that we can secure fair competition for all. Remote monitoring from bridges and aircraft could become an important element in ensuring that regulations are complied with – not least from 2025 at the latest, when stricter sulphur requirements will come into effect in the rest of the world and international enforcement activities will become even more important," said Anne H. Steffensen, Director General of the Danish Shipowners' Association.