Air pollution from sulphur oxides (SOx) emitted from ships has substantially dropped over in recent years, the European Commission said on April 16, citing a new compliance report.

According to the Commission, the positive trend is the result of joint efforts by the Member States and the maritime industry to implement EU rules under the Sulphur Directive on adopting cleaner fuel.

EU mechanisms to technically and financially support the Member States to reduce emissions were an important factor in compliance.

Since 2015, stricter limits for the designated ‘Sulphur Oxides Emissions Control Areas’ of the North and Baltic seas have more than halved emissions, while the overall economic impact on the sector remained minimal.

“Environmental rules deliver and protect our citizens’ quality of life when all sides involved work together to correctly apply them,” Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Commissioner Karmenu Vella said. “The shared commitment by the Member States, industries, and the maritime community as a whole is paying off. People living in and around protected sea areas can breathe cleaner and healthier air. We have successfully preserved the level playing field for industry,” Vella added.

The report comes days after a landmark agreement at the International Maritime Organisation on a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least 50% by 2050.

Both accords illustrate the Commission’s commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement and to a Europe that protects cleaner air for its citizens, the Commission said, adding that exhaust gases from ships are a significant source of emissions and have a major impact on citizens’ health and the environment.