IMO 2020: Countdown to Cutting SOx Emissions

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

June 27, 2019

Pic: International Maritime Organization (IMO)

Pic: International Maritime Organization (IMO)

International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been preparing ahead of the implementation date. From 1 January 2020, under IMO's MARPOL convention for the prevention of pollution from ships.

Accordingly, the sulfur content of fuel oil used by ships operating outside designated emission control areas shall not exceed 0.50% - representing an 80% cut from the current 3.50% limit.    

New requirements for ships to cut sulfur oxide emissions enter into effect on 1 January 2020, marking a sea change in fuel used by ships, globally, which will significantly reduce air pollution from ships with positive benefits for human health and the environment.

At a roundtable industry meeting hosted by IMO at its London Headquarters (21 June), participants were updated on the latest guidance, treaty amendments and other instruments emanating from IMO to support the implementation of the "sulfur 2020" rule.

All of these have been developed by the Member States working through IMO, in collaboration with stakeholders, recognizing the need for cooperation in order to develop and deliver technically robust instruments for international shipping.  

Industry participants* from the shipping, oil refinery and bunker industries welcomed with appreciation the effort made by IMO to address concerns and reviewed progress towards implementation.

The IMO Secretariat highlighted the latest decisions emanating from IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 74), including the adoption of guidelines on consistent implementation, port State control, and other guidance; and from the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 101), including the adoption of Recommended interim measures to enhance the safety of ships relating to the use of oil fuel.

Industry participants reported on their work, including the latest version of the ICS Guidance to Shipping Companies and Crews on Preparing for Compliance with the 2020 'Global Sulphur Cap' which will be published in the first week of July 2019; a Joint Industry Project developing industry guidelines with a focus on safety to support implementation, including training; updated charter clauses developed to address sulfur 2020 and fuel issues; investment by the oil refining industry in new blends of fuel oil to meet the limit; and potentially linking sulphur 2020 provisions with current ship inspection programmes.

Participants recalled that 1 January 2020 is now less than six months away and expressed their commitment to enhancing collaboration, including further information sharing among stakeholders, as appropriate, to make a smooth transition to the 0.50% limit, recognizing the benefits for human health and the environment.

IMO plans to hold a conference in October 2019 with wide participation from stakeholders, to provide updates on planning for 2020. The conference will also include a session on the latest developments regarding alternative fuels and low carbon technologies.

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