Reducing nitrogen emissions

Priority: A realistic approach to reduce nitrogen emissions from shipping


“For better air quality, we want to reduce the amount of nitrogen emissions by, among other things, further investment in shore power, LNG and Nitrogen Emission Control Areas.”

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Nick Lurkin
Climate and Environment

+31 10 2176 275

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Press inquiries


Nathan Habers
Public Relations

+31 10 2176 264


According to the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), international shipping (both inland and seagoing shipping) is currently responsible for 2.9% of the total amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emitted in the Netherlands.

At the international level, increasingly stringent measures have been and are still being taken in order to drastically reduce sulphur and nitrogen oxides and CO2 emissions from seagoing ships. Within the boundaries of maintaining a healthy and essential competitive position, the KVNR supports these international measures to improve the quality of air in and around ports.

The challenge

Though the implementation of various measures, the amount of NOx emitted by seagoing vessels must decrease significantly in the coming years. This includes in Dutch seaports as well as along the Dutch coast. In order to realistically accomplish this task, the following three reduction measures are relevant. Each of these achieve between 70 and 100% NOx reduction, compared to current levels:

1. Nitrogen Emission Control Areas

In 2016, IMO regulations came into place stating that the engines of seagoing vessels built after 1 January 2021 must meet strict NOx emission requirements in order to be allowed to sail in the so-called Nitrogen Emission Control Areas (NECAs) in the North and Baltic Seas. These new Tier-III engines emit approximately 70% less NOx than the current generation of ship engines (Tier-II standard, from 2011), and more than 80% less NOx than older ship engines (Tier-I standard, from 2000). The majority of the Dutch fleet sailing regularly in North-West Europe and (un)loading at Dutch ports now has Tier-II engines. The number of Dutch ships sailing with new Tier-III engines (primarily LNG) is growing.

2. LNG

More and more shipowners are renewing their fleets with new-build vessels that use Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as a cleaner alternative fuel. LNG is currently the only serious alternative for shipowners looking to reduce sulphur oxides and particulate matter emissions by 99% and nitrogen oxides emissions by more than 80% (compared to conventional marine fuels). However, it must be noted that LNG is in fact a fossil fuel (a high calorific natural gas) and therefore must be viewed as a transition fuel in the eventual step towards zero-emissions shipping. The technology on board LNG-powered ships is fundamentally different from ships operating on conventional marine fuels such as marine gas oil or low-sulphur fuel oil. Using modern LNG propulsion technology, other even cleaner and non-fossil fuels could also be used in the medium term, resulting in low-emissions shipping. Therefore, it is essential that LNG does not disappear from the package of possible options to reduce NOx emissions. As such, it is of utmost importance that more and more EU Member States start providing LNG bunkering services to seagoing vessels in their seaports (as required by EU Directive 2014/94/EU).

3. Rollout of shore power

An increasing number of seagoing ships connect to the onshore electricity supply while moored at port (also known as cold-ironing or alternative marine power). By using shore power, these ships are not using their auxiliary engines during a port call. Representing a 100% reduction of emissions, these ships no longer cause air pollution in the port area by using shore power. Just as with the expansion of LNG provision, it is also of the utmost importance that more EU Member States help their seaports offer shore power. Once again, this is required by EU Directive 2014/94/EU (Clean Power for Transport). In order to stimulate the rollout and use of shore power, it is also important that energy taxes (including the Opslag Duurzame Elektriciteit, ODE) that are currently levied when shore power is used be eliminated as soon as possible. This will act as an incentive for shipowners to start using shore power and for energy suppliers and ports to invest in their shore power facilities that could be used by multiple users.

Focus on new ships and smart modifications

When considering the measures above, it is important to realize that ships have an average economic lifespan of 25 years. Trucks, in comparison, are economic for just 7 years. The turnover rate of ships and marine engines, both economically and technically, is therefore significantly lower. As such, the KVNR focuses mainly on the significant emission reduction results to be gained from building new ships and performing smart interim refits/modifications of existing seagoing vessels that will operate for many years to come.

State of play - 5 February 2021

In June 2020, the Dutch Nitrogen Advisory Board – also known as the Remkes Committee – issued recommendations to the Dutch cabinet in a press conference to reduce nitrogen emissions in the long term. This included recommendations to reduce nitrogen emissions from shipping.

In general, the KVNR is positive about the recommendations made with respect to the shipping industry. The Dutch cabinet has also adopted these recommendations in accordance with the environmental and climate ambitions of the Dutch shipping sector. This includes the national Green Deal, in which agreements between government and shipping stakeholders concerning sustainability have been established.

Since 1 January 2021, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea NECAs have entered into force. From now on, all ships that are built must therefore comply with the stricter NOx Tier III standard. This means a nitrogen reduction of more than 70% (!) compared to the previous generation of marine engines.

The KVNR is currently in talks with the Dutch government and members of parliament to further stimulate the rollout of shore power. This is to speed up the completion of business cases for both onshore infrastructure and shore power installations on board seagoing vessels.