STRICT new pollution controls on the shipping industry may mean ferry routes and jobs in Harwich are cut.

Tougher limits on sulphur emissions into the North Sea could drastically affect ferry companies’ profit margins.

The controls, backed by the Government, currently plan to affect cargo shipping.

But Eurocrats want to bring the regulations into EU law, with additional requirements to include passenger ferries. They are due to take effect in 2015. Stena Line, which operates two return ferry trips a day from Harwich, said the new rules would increase operational costs.

Spokesman Lars Olsson said: “The proposed sulphur directive will, in 2015, dramatically increase fuel costs for ferry operators.

“We are working to reach a fairer solution and, together with the UK shipping sector, is engaged in negotiations with Government to reach a balance between environmental protection and impact on our trade.

“If the directive is implemented in its current form, the significant increases in operational costs would not be sustainable for some Stena Line routes and we would have to consider all ways to maintain profitability. This could lead to loss of jobs and route closures.”

The Commons Transport Select Committee supports the Government, saying the costs of tighter controls would be outweighed by health benefits.