Home / Industry News / News from the IMO – Sulphur emissions to be curbed


The IMO has agreed a 0.5% global sulphur cap on ship emissions from 2020 – rather than the potential later date of 2025. This represents a significant reduction in the maximum sulphur content permissable, down from 3.5% (outside existing emission control areas), and comes against warnings from the sector that the new rules will extract a high cost on the already beleaguered container shipping industry.

The rules are aimed at reducing the air pollution from burning high sulphur fuel oil, which is linked to negative impacts on health and on the environment. The date of implementation was dependent on the results of a study to determine whether enough fuel below the 0.5% sulphur content would be available by 2020. In reaching its decision last week the IMO were satisfied of sufficient availability of compliant fuel however industry response has been less confident. There is concern also for the potential for the new regulation to catapult the price of cleaner burning marine diesel fuel and that operating costs are likely to increase significantly.

Shipping owners have three options for complying with the new rules: switch from sulphur heavy fuel oil to a compliant fuel, invest in new engines to burn alternative fuels (LNG) or install exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers) to existing ships to filter out sulphur. All three options are likely to add expense.

Commentators have been quick to note that there is much to do now to ensure that sufficient quantities of compliant fuel of the right quality will be available, and that the new regulation will be implemented smoothly, including ensuring adequate enforcement measures are in place to ensure a global level playing field.

While the IMO moved ahead with stringent sulphur emission regulations last week it took a softer line with CO2 emissions. It ruled only that vessels of 5,000gt and above will be obliged to measure their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and to declare the results to the IMO and the ships’ countries of registration. Data collection will run from 2017 to 2023.

A statement from the IMO said: “The new mandatory data collection system is intended to be the first in a three-step approach, in which analysis of the data collected would provide the basis for an objective, transparent and inclusive policy debate in the MEPC.

“This would allow a decision to be made on whether any further measures are needed to enhance energy efficiency and address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. If so, proposed policy options would then be considered.”

The requirements were adopted by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, (MEPC) meeting in London for its 70th session (24-28 October). The IMO Secretary-General said the new requirements sent a clear signal that IMO was ready to build on the existing technical and operational measures for ship energy efficiency.

The MEPC also approved a roadmap (2017 through to 2023) for developing a “Comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships”, which foresees an initial GHG strategy to be adopted in 2018.




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