In 2010, the "Cap San Lorenzo", a Hamburg Süd ship, made a very practical contribution to supporting worldwide efforts to lower the sulphur dioxide content in the waste gas plume of large vessels. On a voyage through the Gulf of Mexico, the vessel used low sulphur marine gas oil (LSMGO) with an extremely low sulphur content of 0.1 per cent. A few months later the Cap San Lorenzo again used LSMGO while entering and leaving the port of Santos. Hamburg Süd thus enabled the US Environmental Protection Agency EPA to collect data on the use of low sulphur fuels on a commercial vessel for the first time.
These data help to reduce pressures on the health of coastal residents and the environment. Seagoing ships use bunker oil to fuel the main engine. The fuel used is a by-product of the petrochemical industry and contains a significantly higher level of sulphur than, say, the petrol used in cars. Combustion in the slow-running 2-stroke engines of large ships converts this sulphur into sulphur dioxide – a noxious gas. Consequently, Europe and California have already declared special transit areas where ships are only allowed to use low-sulphur fuel – more are to follow.