Europe still willing to work through IMO
Sources close to the European Commission (EC) have back-tracked on reports that Europe was ready to take unilateral action to reduce harmful emissions from ships.
"We will legislate if the IMO (International Maritime Organization) doesn't make progress," said a source speaking to Bunkerworld.
"We will move forward on this, but we will wait to see what the IMO decides."
The European Union's Environment Council met on Monday and discussed moves to limit ship-generated pollution.
A French news agency quoted EC environment spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich saying there had been "unanimous understanding that the IMO wasn't doing enough" and that Europe should develop its own strategy to tackle sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.
"This is nonsense," said Helfferich in an e-mail response to Bunkrerworld.
She did not elaborate, but sources close to the commission said the Environment Council had decided to review IMO progress, possibly at the end of the year, and that only then would the EU consider adopting its own legislative agenda.
The IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) holds a crucial meeting at the end of this month to consider options for cutting sulphur emissions.
The options include an ambitious sulphur emissions reduction target that would most likely be met by phasing out intermediate fuel oil (IFO) as bunker material and replacing it with distillates.
Other options include the use of exhaust gas scrubbing technology and lowering sulphur limits for fuel used in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs).
The IMO is under intense pressure to agree a plan for reducing sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions.
It is also facing calls to find ways of reducing shipping's CO2 emissions.
The United Nations body is the only platform for agreeing global policy for the maritime sector.
If the IMO is judged to have failed, players warn there is a risk that countries and regional groupings will introduce a patchwork of local regulation that could damage the shipping and bunker industries.
The EU's Environment Council is composed of environment ministers from the EU member states and works in concert with the European Parliament.