A small twin-propeller aircraft hovers over huge cargo ships off the Belgian coast, picking up traces of the ship’s emissions.
The Coast Guard plane checks and analyzes sulfur and nitrogen levels using an air pollution sensor called “Sniffer” developed by researchers at a Swedish university.
“In the aircraft, we have installed a sensor called Sniffer. With this Sniffer, we can monitor emissions from ships. In fact, we monitor two regulations for ship emissions: one for SOx, sulfur, and one for NOx, nitrogen, ” said Ward Von Roy, 35, an air monitoring operator with the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.
“It is very efficient because we can monitor up to ten to fifteen ships per hour. For comparison, an inspector in the port can only check one ship per day. So we can inspect many more ships than any other system.”
If the levels are too high, the ship is retested in port and can face a fine of around three hundred thousand euros.
The age of the ship is a factor in determining acceptable nitrogen oxide levels.
Around 15 percent of all sulfur and nitrogen oxide pollution globally comes from ships according to experts.
The stretch of water patrolled by the Belgian coast guard between the Channel and the North Sea is one of Europe’s busiest shipping routes.