Nitrogen emissions from ships restricted in the Baltic Sea and North Sea

Press release 28.10.2016 10.53 fi sv en

Press release of the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Ministry of the Environment

The Marine Environment Protection Committee of the International Maritime Organization IMO approved the designation of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea as an emission control area for nitrogen oxides (NECA) on 27th October 2016.

In these areas nitrogen oxide emissions are to be reduced by 80 per cent from the present level. The regulation will be applicable to new ships built after 1 January 2021 when sailing in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea and other NECAs.

- The IMO decision is excellent news for the environment and the Finnish marine industry, which has cleantech expertise and production based on LNG engines and catalytic converters, says Anne Berner, Minister of Transport and Communications.

- Restricting nitrogen emissions from marine transport promotes the protection of the marine environment, significantly reduces the nutrient load to the Baltic Sea, and improves air quality in the coastal regions, says Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of Agriculture and the Environment.

The decision means that ships built after 1 January 2021 must have catalyst converters installed or use liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel. LNG meets the emissions control area requirements with regard to nitrogen. Using LNG also almost completely eliminates sulphur emissions and significantly reduces particulate and carbon dioxide emissions.

The decision reduces nitrogen load and eutrophication, which is the greatest environmental problem in the Baltic Sea. Airborne nitrogen emissions represent about 25% of the total nitrogen load of the Baltic Sea, of which about 10% comes from maritime transport. Lower nitrogen emission levels improve air quality in the coastal regions as well.

The estimated additional costs to maritime transport to Finland are low. The costs will incur to shipping companies and transport customers over a period of about 20 years as new ships are being built.

The Finnish Government will be monitoring the total impact of the NECA regulation and, if necessary, the Finnish industry will receive compensation for the costs incurred. The industry and business life were well represented in the working group of the Ministry of the Environment that assessed the cost effects of the decision.

The Baltic Sea states agreed in the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) last spring to propose the designation of the Baltic Sea as a nitrogen oxide emissions control area. For the states in the area it was important that the IMO approved the designation of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea as NECAs at the same time.

The protection of the Baltic Sea rests on the premise that all actors must contribute to improving the state of the Baltic Sea by reducing the nitrogen and phosphorus nutrient load that is the main cause of eutrophication. The actions of EU Member States are also regulated by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which requires measures to be taken to achieve and maintain a good environmental status of the marine areas by 2020.

Besides the decision concerning NECA, the Marine Environment Protection Committee reached a decision concerning the enforcement of the regulation concerning sulphur content in fuels. According to the decision, the global cap for sulphur content in fuels of 0.5% will enter into force in 2020. In the Baltic Sea and the North Sea the cap for sulphur content in fuels is 0.1%, as set out in the IMO regulation and EU Sulphur Directive that entered into force in 2015. In the next meeting in May 2017 the Committee will continue its work to ensure that the shift to low-sulphur fuels takes place in a controlled manner.


Ms Lolan Eriksson, Ministerial Counsellor, tel. +358 295 342 493,, Twitter @LolanEriksson

Ms Kristiina Isokallio, Senior International Adviser, tel. +358 295 250 103,