The European Commission proposed on Friday a rule to reduce the sulfur content of fuels used in shipping, which they estimate it will result in reduced emissions of sulfur dioxide up to 90% and of fine particles by up to 80%.

The costs of the measure will range between 2,600 and 11,000 million euros, according to Brussels. However, the EU executive argues that the benefits from the standpoint of public health is encrypted between 15,000 and 34,000 million.

“This proposal represents a major step forward in reducing air emissions from the shipping industry that is growing rapidly. Help to solve the persistent problems of air quality that continues to affect millions of Europeans,” said European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik said in a statement.

The legislation revises the policy regarding the sulfur content of certain liquid fuels and incorporates new standards of the International Maritime Organization to EU law to ensure proper compliance and harmonized by all Member States.

Under the proposals, the authorized maximum sulfur content in fuels used in shipping in vulnerable areas like the Baltic Sea, North Sea and English Channel will be reduced from the previous rate of 1.5% to 0.1% from January 1, 2015. Other areas will need to register even greater reductions from 4.5% to 0.5%, no later than January 1, 2020.

Vessels may use equivalent technologies, purification systems such as exhaust gas as an alternative to fuels with low sulfur content. Other proposed changes are a more unified reporting and verification provisions on sampling and adjusted to international standards. The proposal will be implemented progressively from 2015 to 2020.

The EU executive has admitted that “the new rules represent a challenge for the sectors concerned.” However, he argued that “the use of alternative technologies to reduce significantly will lower compliance costs and encourage innovation and efficiency in the use of resources.”

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