EU Sulphur Directive - further clarifications

An article in our last Weekly News No 51 of 2007 reminded members that, as from 1 January 2008, ships using a marine gas oil in EU waters have to ensure that that marine gas oil has a sulphur content of maximum 0.1% by mass.


Since then, we have received a large number of requests for clarification. We therefore offer some additional data.

The EU Sulphur Directive is a combination of two pieces of legislation: the original Directive EC 1999/32 and its amendments EC 2005/33. The consolidated text of EC 1999/32 and EC 2005/33 can be seen - Click here

The date (1 January 2008) from when the marine gas oils used by ships in the EU waters have to have a maximum sulphur content of 0.1% is stipulated in paragraph 1 of Article 4 and it belongs to the original text of the EU Sulphur Directive (EC 1999/32). It is true that, when issuing the amendments (EC 2005/33), the EU Commission confused the readers over this particular issue, but it issued clarifications which can be seen on its web site (Click here) (see item #3).

Before 1 January 2008, the maximum required sulphur content in marine gas oils used in EU waters was of 0.2%.

Please note that if ships were to use marine diesel oils (DMB and DMC grades) instead of marine gas oil (DMA grade), then the sulphur content on the former can be up to 1.5%.

The major problem with this new specific requirement is the lack of supply of 0.1% sulphur content marine gas oil. Moreover there is basically no legal obligation for non-EU ports to provide ships with such a low sulphur marine gas oil. We have already approached the EU Commission on this matter in October 2007 and plan to renew our appeal. A letter has now been drafted and we are inviting other ship owner associations to co-sponsor an appeal to the EU Commission for clarification, and acceptance that ships coming from outside the EU cannot be made responsible where a supply of low sulphur marine gas oil is not available.

Finally, as from 1 January 2010, the EU Sulphur Directive requires that, when at berth in an EU port, ships use fuels with maximum sulphur content of 0.1%. The other provisions for maximum sulphur content of marine fuels to be used in SECAs and in "territorial waters" (another term to be further clarified with the EU Commission) will remain the same unless further amendments are adopted by the EU Commission, or unless these provisions are superseded by any amendments to the IMO’s MARPOL Annex VI regulations.

Contact: Dragos Rauta