IMO Continues to Push Through Sulphur Ban

 12 Feb 2018 11.08am

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has agreed to move forward with a ban on the carriage of fuel oil on board ships that do not comply with the new low sulphur limit.

IMO’s Sub-Committee has forwarded its proposed draft amendments to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 72) for urgent consideration at its meeting in April 2018.

Once approved by MEPC 72, the draft amendments could then be adopted at the next conference, MEPC 73, to be held in October 2018.

Read a technical paper by Simon Bennett, Director Policy & External Relations, ICS, on the shipping industry's response to environmental regulation

This means the amendments could enter into force on 1 March 2020, just two months after the 0.50% limit comes into effect.

Meeting of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR), held February 5-9, 2018  at IMO headquarters, London, UK. Opened by IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim (left); chaired by Mr Sveinung Oftedal (right)


At the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) meeting held on February 5-9, 2018, it agreed to take actions to help enforce consistent implementation of the regulation to ensure a level playing field is maintained.

The new 0.5% limit on sulphur oxides (SOx) in fuel oil on board ships will come into effect on January 1, 2020.

It is expected to slash sulphur emissions in the shipping industry by 85% compared to today’s levels, with the aim of improving air quality and protecting the environment.

The exception will be for ships fitted with an approved “equivalent arrangement” to meet the sulphur limit – such as an exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) or so-called “scrubber”.

These arrangements can be used with “heavy” high sulphur fuel oil because EGCS clean the emissions and are therefore accepted as being at least as effective at meeting the required sulphur limit.

Sulphur oxides are known to be harmful to human health, causing, lung disease, respiratory symptoms.

It is also a toxic pollutant to the environment, much like carbon dioxide, and can lead to acid rain.

Meeting of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR), held February 5-9, 2018 at IMO headquarters, London, UK


The Sub-Committee drafted amendments to the MARPOL Convention on the prevention of pollution from ships (MARPOL Annex VI) to prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil.

The amendments state that the sulphur content of any fuel oil used or carried for use on board ships shall not exceed 0.5%.

On January 23, 2018, Maersk and a diverse group of environmental organizations and members of the global shipping industry, including BIMCO and the International Chamber of Shipping, released a joint statement voicing their support for the end of the carriage of non-compliant marine fuels by 2020.

Other companies which have publically voiced support include Clean Shipping Coalition, Cruise Lines International Association, Friends of the Earth U.S, International Parcel Tanker’s Association, INTERTANKO, Pacific Environment, World Shipping Council and WWF Global Arctic Programme.

Read more: The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has announced that Seafarers' rights to shore leave have been "strengthened" to achieve the smooth transit in ports of ships, cargo and passengers

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