Our coast guard has a sniffer plane, a Belgian first
Since 2016, Belgium, a pioneer in the field, has been monitoring the North Sea with a red and white twin-engine coast guard vessel equipped with a nitrogen sensor to ensure that ships do not violate environmental standards. These flights also allow the monitoring of marine mammals.
The sensor measures the pollutant components of ship emissions in the sea. Sulphur measurements have been taken since 2016, and nitrogen compounds have also been detectable since 2020.
Limiting ships' sulphur emissions is a European priority given the many consequences of these emissions on public health and the environment. Sulphur-rich ship fuels are major contributors to the problems of fine particles, acid rain and climate change.
Belgium was the first country to deploy vessels over the sea to monitor compliance with these standards. The maximum sulphur content permitted in marine fuels has been reduced from 3.5% to 0.5% since the beginning of 2020. In the Belgian North Sea, the standard is even stricter, as it only allows 0.1%.
The Netherlands is also collaborating in the fight against sulphur and nitrogen emissions in the North Sea, and other countries are expected to follow suit very soon.