IMO Stands Firm on Sulphur Limit Dates


IMO Headquarters

The Head of Air Pollution and Energy Efficiency at the International Maritime Organization, Edmund Hughes, has kept firm on the dates set for the new lower 0.50% limit on sulphur in ships’ fuel oil.

Hughes delivered the message to the Asia Pacific Petroleum Conference, stating that the new limit will be applicable globally from January 1, 2020, while in designated emission control areas it will remain even lower at 0.10%.

As part of the IMO’s MARPOL treaty, the regulation aims to benefit both the environment and human health.

The IMO first confirmed its date in October 2016 to give certainty to refineries, bunkering and shipping sectors.

Container shipping companies have reacted to rising bunkering costs by implementing surcharges, which has resulted in manufacturers, retailers and wholesalers calling for dialogue with container liners to find the best mechanism to share the costs. 

The IMO has said that it is supporting member states and the industry through the implementation, and will hold an IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) on 22-26 October to approve ship implementation planning guidance as well as best practice guides for member and coastal states and for fuel oil suppliers.

To learn more about heavy fuel in shipping, read a Port Technology technical paper

The MEPC is also expecting to adopt a complementary MARPOL amendment that supports the implementation by prohibiting the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil unless the ship has an exhaust gas cleaning system (scrubber) fitted, which allows the ship to continue using high sulphur fuel oil as the scrubber cleans the emission on the ship.

The introduction of new blends of fuel oil by suppliers will also help to meet the 0.50% limit on sulphur.

Currently, the maximum sulphur limit in fuel oil is 3.50% globally and 0.10 % in the Baltic Sea area, the North Sea area and the North American area, which covers designated coastal areas off the United States and Canada, in addition to the United States Caribbean Sea area around Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. 

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