Recently, the China Maritime Safety Administration issued its ‘Implementation Scheme of 2020 Global Marine Fuel Oil Suphur Cap’, announcing that China will formally implement IMO’s sulphur cap on 1 January 2020 and make arrangements for relevant specific matters. It is clear that China is well prepared after nearly four years of putting a system of emission control areas (ECAs) into practice, as well as establishing a basic supply system for low sulphur fuel.
According to China’s sulphur cap implementation plan, from 1 January 2020, international ships entering waters under Chinese jurisdiction are not permitted to use fuel with a sulphur content surpassing 0.50%m/m. Moreover, international ships entering China’s domestic river ECAs will not be permitted to use fuel surpassing 0.10%. As of 1 January 2022, international ships entering China’s Hainan ECA will also abide by the 0.10% restriction. From 1 March 2020, international vessels travelling in waters under Chinese jurisdiction will not be permitted to load fuel with a sulphur content higher than 0.5%. Furthermore, beginning 1 January 2020, vessels will not be allowed to discharge open-loop scrubber washwater in China’s ECAs.
At the beginning of 2015, China introduced the implementation plan for ECAs in the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta, and Bohai Sea (Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei). On 1 January 2016, the emission control areas were officially implemented in these three zones. Since then, with the introduction of more stringent ECA systems and next-stage emission reduction control standards in Shanghai, Shenzhen and other regions, China’s requirements for emissions control have become much stricter. In some zones, the required sulphur content of fuel has been reduced from 0.5% to 0.1% and at the same time, the scope of these ECAs is also expanding.
Since most ships choose to use low sulphur fuel oil (LSFO) in order to meet the sulphur requirements, China, at an early stage, took measures to ensure its coordinated supply. In 2017, China released and issued a series of policies, one of which promoted the establishment of a bunkering infrastructure for LSFO. Other policies included guiding domestic refining and chemical enterprises to produce compliant fuel, promoting its benefits, and allowing oil supply enterprises to operate across regions. Further policies involved expediting the development and revision of the fuel standards, completing research and revision of relevant standards and specifications for marine gas oil and diesel, and the procedures for their inspection.
China’s large oil companies were already producing and supplying LSFO well in advance of IMO’s deadline. It was reported last year that CNPC, Sinopec, CNOOC and Sinochem Group planned increase the production capacity to 18.15 million tonnes per annum by 2020.
Some pilot free trade zones also launched 2020 action plans for LSFO. For example, Zhejiang’s pilot free trade zone is reliant on the existing and ongoing petrochemical industry base in Zhoushan to produce stable and reliable LSFO that has a price advantage over competitors, and to build a LSFO bunkering facility for northeast Asia.
Ship operators are the companies that will be most heavily affected by the sulphur cap and industry insiders warn that in choosing their fuel they should purchase from regular suppliers, provide their crew with necessary training, and evaluate whether or not modifications to their fuel systems and tank cleaning process are required. “With the advanced arrangements of the country and the concentrated efforts of all parties, work in response to the sulphur cap will be well organised. This will not only promote effective compliance in China, but also further promote the progress of China’s environmental protection cause,” says an industry insider.