River Emissions

MQT on 2018-11-22
Session date: 
November 22, 2018
Question By: 
Leonie Cooper
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Recent Guardian* reports revealed concerns that ships will dump pollutants in the ocean to avoid new International Maritime Organisation clean fuel rules. According to your Environment Strategy, river transportation makes up a 'small but significant' proportion of London's ambient pollution. Do you have a numerical figure for the contribution of river traffic to London's pollution, and how are you tackling this while also ensuring that ships are not able to subvert new rules in this way? How does this affect your approach to river transportation, particularly the building of new terminals?



River Emissions

River Emissions

Answered By: 
The Mayor

The discharge of sulphurous scrubber waste by international vessels on the high seas is outside my powers as Mayor of London to control. I would, however, strongly encourage the International Maritime Organisation to close this loophole as rapidly as possible. Emissions controls that simply move pollutants from one part of the environment to another should not be acceptable.

In terms of vessels on the Thames: the vast majority of vessels operating within London are classified as “inland waterway vessels” and as such must use red diesel rather than marine fuels. As red diesel is required to meet the same strict sulphur limits as road diesel, scrubbers are not used by these vessels, so the problem does not arise. The clear policies I have set out in my Environment Strategy and London Plan are unaffected.

You also asked for figures for the contribution of river emissions to London’s air pollution. The Port of London Authority recently released a detailed inventory of emissions from vessels on the tidal Thames and my officers will be integrating this into the forthcoming update of the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory. In the meantime, the best estimates we have were published in my London Environment Strategy last year and put contributions to NOx and particulate matter at 1 per cent of London’s total emissions, which my officers believe to be an underestimate.

The impacts of pollution are related to how far away the source is. So, the amount of pollution caused locally by river traffic will be greater close to the river banks than, for instance, in outer London. The welcome recent announcement to scrap plans for the Enderby Wharf Cruise Terminal will mean that a potential additional source of air pollution affecting local communities along the river in East London will not now be built.