Baltic and North Sea states highlight NOx impact

The benefits of a NOx emission control area in the North Sea would outweigh costs by up to six times, a study commissioned by Dutch environmental assessment agency PBL has found – but would cost ship owners €282 million burden over nine years.

The study was discussed during a lunchtime presentation to the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, which will be asked to approve the applications of the Baltic Sea and North Sea states for NOx ECA designation from 1 January 2021 this week.

The costs include investment in alternative fuel or NOx aftertreatment – selective catalytic reduction or exhaust gas recirculation – and anticipated growth in the regional fleet after 2021, as only newbuilds after that date will have to comply with lower NOx emission limits. According to the study, around 60% of the costs would be capital expenditure.

The base case of the study found a likely reduction in NOx emissions of 130,000 to 150,000 tonnes, reported Peter Hammingh of PBL – with an upper limit of 300,000 tonnes. According to the study, that equates to around a cost impact on human and environmental health of up to €2 billion.

“Under any of our sensitivity scenarios, the benefits would outweigh the cost, and potentially by up to 6.8 times,” said Hammingh.

Similar studies commissioned to support the Baltic States’ application found that NOx abatement for shipping in a Baltic NOx ECA would cost around €2,000 per abated NOx tonne – a comparable cost to those seen in the agriculture and land-based wastewater treatment sectors. A NOx limit in the Baltic Sea is seen as critical to combatting eutrophication, the over-nourishment of the area (caused by a convergence of geographical factors) that results in large blooms of algae. In the Gulf of Finland, for example, NOx emissions from shipping were found to be responsible for 2-6% of the algae bloom.

The Baltic and North Sea States are seeking simultaneous designations of two new NOx ECAs – the first after the North American ECA was designated this year – by 1 January 2021.

Directly before the North American NOx ECA was introduced, around 1,200 keels for new ships were laid, meaning those vessels did not need to comply with the new limits. The Baltic and North Sea delegates (represented at the lunch session by delegates from Finland and the Netherlands respectively) said they had not considered whether this could be prevented for their designations.

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