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E.U. policy helped reduce air quality in harbors

A European Union policy which limits sulfur content in fuels for ships at berth or at anchor in ports has helped decrease sulfur dioxide emissions from shipping in E.U. ports.

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By measuring key air quality parameters in certain harbors before and after the sulfur content limits were enforced, an average decrease of 66 percent in sulfur dioxide concentrations were found. In non-E.U. ports, measurements indicate that levels of the chemical compound remained the same.

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The policy indicates that all ships at berth or at anchor in European harbors are to use fuels with a sulfur content of less than 0.1 percent by weight, as of January 2010. Previously, fuels of up to 4.5 percent sulfur content were allowed.

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Measuring was carried out by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre, using an automated monitoring station on a cruise ship, Costa Pacifica, which followed a fixed weekly route in the Western Mediterranean from 2009 to 2010.

In the four ports measured along the Mediterranean, Civitavecchia, Savona, and Palma de Mallorca averaged a decrease of 66 percent. The fourth port, Tunis, had zero sulfur dioxide reductions and no reduction in any of the other air pollutants that were measured in all four harbors as well.

However, JRC’s measurements in the harbor of Barcelona were inconclusive because of large day-to-day concentration variations, though independent measurements from monitoring stations in the harbor of Barcelona and in the vicinity of the harbor of Palma de Mallorca confirm a strong decrease in sulfur dioxide concentrations from 2009 to 2010.

“The study also confirms a correlation between sulfur dioxide and chemical elements typically emitted from ship stacks which demonstrates that ships were the main source of sulfur dioxide in the harbors,” the press release said.

Scientists from the Universities of Genoa and Florence, the INFN-LABEC Laboratory in Florence, and the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research in Barcelona took part in the measurements, while logistics were provided by Costa Crociere. – EcoSeed Staff

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