Breathe Easily: EU Proposes Stricter Regulations to Improve Air Quality

Discover why the new guidelines will affect your port – and how to comply using Sinay’s Air Quality Module 

Improving air quality has moved significantly up the agenda for ports and maritime businesses following the latest significant tightening of guidelines by the World Health Organization (WHO). This statement has been decisive in encouraging the European Union (EU) to act and to review its own standards, which currently fall short of the WHO proposals. The EU recently announced a consultation period until 16 December 2021 as part of a review of the EU’s Ambient Air Quality Directives. 

Air quality is a major public health issue. 400,000 people in the EU die prematurely due to air pollution each year according to the European Commission’s own research data. Air pollutants affect people’s lives in other ways too. Businesses suffer reduced productivity, measured in lost workdays; farmers experience crop yield loss; and it is a cause of ill health. European policymakers have calculated the health and economic costs, including damages to buildings, at an estimated 339 – 940 € billion per year. 

Awareness amongst the public regarding the importance of good air quality is high, as increasingly people purchase air quality sensors to install in their homes to collect and access real-time data. The proposed EU new air quality guidelines will further accelerate pressure on maritime businesses to act and collectively tackle the problem of air pollution. 

In September 2021, the WHO announced new global Air Quality Guidelines for six pollutants: particulate matter (PM), ozone (O₃), nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), sulfur dioxide (SO₂) and carbon monoxide (CO). One pollutant is particularly targeted in the declaration is PM 2.5. Halving the exposure levels from halved from 10micrograms (µg) per cubic meter to 5 µg/m3 could reduce 80% of the deaths. The WHO target for nitrogen dioxide – a pollutant generated by road traffic – is reduced from 40 to 10 µg/m3.  

Currently, only one country is achieving the revised PM 2.5 threshold of 5 µg/m3 – Iceland. Indeed, an estimated 90% of the global population lives in areas with concentrations higher than 10 µg/m3.  

How the New Air Quality Guidelines Will Affect European Ports

Maintaining ambitious standards of air quality is critically important for port cities.  

Atmospheric pollutants result from a range of port activities, either as a direct or indirect cause of port operations. Research into shipping and air quality in Italian port cities published in April 2021 found that transportation such as ships, cargo trucks, cargo handling equipment, and railways contributed to various maritime-related emissions. These pollutants identified included particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) as well as other harmful pollutants, namely vanadium (V), nickel (Ni), BC (black carbon), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs). 

This research also considered the contribution of cruise ships as well as car transport. In two Italian cities surveyed – Civitavecchia and Venice –  cruise ships emit more nitrogen oxides, and especially sulfur oxides than the total amount produced by car transportation locally. Other European port cities such as Barcelona, Venice, and Palma de Mallorca recorded elevated levels of sulfur dioxide due to cruise ship activity. 

Reducing air pollutants and improving air quality is therefore imperative from both a health perspective and for compliance. The launch of the review of the EU Directives relating to air quality date back to 2004, with new guidelines anticipated to be in place by the end of 2022. 

European Ports Taking Action to Improve Air Quality

Across Europe, there are examples of ports in various countries that have implemented initiatives to limit exposure and concentrations of air pollution to improve air quality. 

In the UK, the government department with responsibility for the environment published in 2019 bold cross-industry targets to reduce emissions by 2030. The country’s policy regards air pollution as the top environmental risk to public health, alongside other medical issues such as cancer, heart disease, and obesity. The result is that the UK now has a Clean Maritime Plan. Twenty-three major ports in England must develop air quality strategies covering their port operations, shipping, tenants, or port user activities. 

Along the south coast of England, the UK’s largest municipal port Portsmouth aims to become the UK’s first net carbon neutral port by 2030, and the first zero-emission port by 2050. Several individual projects will help the port to meet this goal, including the use of real-time air quality monitors. The port has purchased a fleet of 100% electric vans with zero emissions and equipped with a 40kWh battery sufficient for the engineering team’s operations. In addition, the port is using air quality monitors to measure pollutants in real-time, alongside other measures such as wind turbines, the use of advanced fuels, and the planned addition of two new LNG-powered ships for Brittany Ferries in future years. 

Monitoring Air Quality and the Importance of Real-Time Measurements

Putting in place effective monitoring systems to measure air quality is critical.  

Monitoring enables ports to assess the level of pollution in relation to the ambient air quality standards. 

Air quality monitors can track the various pollutants. Smart technology allows these monitors to capture this and other data, communicating the information to the port’s operations – in real-time. 

Most port authorities currently rely on taking samples to measure air quality. This is more labor-intensive, a slower process, and less accurate. For example, manual systems often use different measuring techniques and instruments. This can result in differing results on ambient concentration in the identical location. 

Real-time monitoring data however enables ports to make fast & accurate decisions.  

Ports are therefore able to act with more timely interventions and can access data to monitor their compliance with EU directives, both now and in the future.  

How the Sinay Air Module Helps European Ports to Comply with New Regulations

Sinay is a company based in France that understands the needs of ports and the maritime sector. We are working with European and global ports to transform into Smart Ports by using AI technology and data.  

The Sinay Hub is a time-saver tool to solve the needs of port authorities providing real-time situational awareness for air quality, water quality, and other environmental measures. 

The Sinay Air Module measures all the above-listed air quality pollutants in real-time, so you can comply with EU regulations and make quick and accurate decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions About: WHO GUIDELINES

The new WHO Guidelines changed the PM2 5 Guidelines, halving the exposure levels from 10micrograms (µg) per cubic meter to 5 µg/m3, which could reduce 80% of the deaths.

According to the new WHO standards, the air Indians breath has an unacceptable air quality, with levels of PM2 5 even higher than the 2005 standard. In Dehli, the average level for PM2 5 was 98 µg/m3, while the WHO now recommends 5 µg/m3. 

Acceptable air quality is when the AQI ranges from 51-100. However, the average level of pollutants according to the numbers changes per country. 

PM 2.5 stands for particulate matter. Particulate matter in the air is a pollutant that affects human health and can cause premature deaths. 

Indoor Air Quality Guidelines (IAQGs) defines parameters for the health of indoor air in relation to the chemicals and pollutants present. 

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