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The UK government is considering extending the boundaries of the European Emissions Control Area (ECA), where marine fuel sulfur content is limited to 0.1%, to cover all of its waters.
The government will launch a consultation on the issue by March 2019, according to a new strategy published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs this week. The government also plans to launch a "Clean Maritime Council" by the summer of this year "to bring together different parts of the maritime sector to drive uptake of cleaner technologies and greener fuels", the ministry said.
The strategy also requires all major English ports to produce air quality strategies by May 2019, with plans to reduce emissions from ship and shore activities.
Sulfur limits in the European ECA -- covering the Baltic, the North Sea and the English Channel -- were cut from 1% to 0.1% at the start of 2015, forcing most ships operating there to switch from burning fuel oil to marine gasoil. Extending the ECA would bring the same limit into effect in waters to the north and west of the UK.
The government would need to decide whether to seek to extend the current ECA through the International Maritime Organization, which would require the support of other countries, or to impose the 0.1% standard in its own waters outside the ECA through domestic law.
The global sulfur limit outside ECAs is due to be cut from 3.5% to 0.5% at the start of 2020.