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Air quality sensor in the Port of Rotterdam checks sulphur emissions from shipping

The Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management recently installed an air quality sensor on Splitsingsdam at the Port of Rotterdam’s Maas Entrance. An application with real-time readings displays vessel emissions for inspectors when vessels enter or leave the port. This is one of the additional measures ILT is taking to monitor sulphur dioxide emissions from shipping.

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Air quality sensor, Splitsingsdam, Rotterdam. Photo: ILT

Stricter regulations from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) are placing significant restrictions on sulphur emissions from shipping. In protected areas, such as the North Sea, a maximum permitted sulphur level of 0.1% has already applied since 2015. As of 1 January 2020, sea-going vessels on the world’s oceans may only use fuel with a sulphur content of no more than 0.5%. The current maximum is 3.5%. High-sulphur fuel will only be permitted on vessels that have scrubbers - an installed filtration system - on board.

Hoek van Holland

The ‘sulphur sniffer’ was originally installed at Hoek van Holland. It has now been relocated to the ‘Lage Licht’ on Splitsingsdam in the centre of the approach channel, where it will have a much better reach. The previous location was too far away from the area in which the largest vessels enter the port.

Small plane

ILT has also been using a small Belgian plane to monitor sulphur emissions since 2018. The Belgian coast guard has been monitoring shipping emissions using a small Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences plane for several years. A sensor extracts the air from beneath the plane to measure a vessel’s SO2 and CO2 emission concentrations. ILT is now also using this. Using the plane means that ILT can now also monitor vessels far out to sea.

Bunker tanks

In recent years ILT has observed that approximately 95 per cent of vessels arriving in Rotterdam complies with the sulphur regulations. In addition to the standard inspections in the Port of Rotterdam, ILT will also be sampling sea-going vessels’ so-called bunker tanks from 2020. From that point, vessels without scrubbers may no longer have fuel containing sulphur levels higher than 0.5% in their tanks.

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