Over the last two years, ships using high-sulphur fuel in Danish waters have been tracked by a ‘sniffer’, closely monitoring emissions from the funnels of ships. Monitoring was also performed by a sniffer installed on an aeroplane and was recently transferred to a helicopter.

“By far the majority of shipping companies comply with the rules, but unfortunately, some ships still emit too much sulphur. Therefore, we’re putting a lot of effort into inspecting ships in Danish ports and Danish waters, and I’m pleased that our efforts seem to be reaping rewards,” said Sara Røpke, Head of Division at the Danish EPA.

According to the regulations, fuel from ships may not contain more than 0.1% sulphur. Sniffer monitoring provides a much more detailed picture of compliance with the sulphur regulations in Danish waters compared with oil samples alone. However, oil samples are still required as evidence for the police reports.

At the same time, the monitoring helps to ensure equal competition in the shipping industry, as it keeps ships from using cheap fuel with too high sulphur content.

In 2015, strict requirements were introduced to reduce sulphur content in smoke from ships in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, and there are strong indications that this has had the intended effect: Since 2015, sulphur content in the air over Denmark has been reduced by more than 50% compared with previous years.

The sulphur requirement of max. 0.1% in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea are stricter than in many other places, but also at global level, more stringent environmental requirements are underway. From 2020, ships will not be allowed to use fuel with a sulphur content of more than 0.5%, compared with the present 3.5%. In the North Sea and the Baltic Sea and in the waters around North America, the threshold will remain at 0.1%, also after 2020.

Every year, the Danish Maritime Authority takes approximately 150 oil samples from ships entering Danish ports. If an oil sample reveals that the sulphur content is too high, the Danish EPA will generally report the ship to the police.