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IMO confirms 2020 date for 0.5% sulphur limit fuels

Shiprepair eNews November 2016MEPC 70th session meeting

The decision to stick with the 1 January 2020 implementation of the global sulphur cap of 0.5% m/m (mass/mass) for fuel oil used in ships was confirmed at IMO’s MEPC 70th session in 24 – 28 October 2016.

In October 2008, MEPC 58 agreed to adopted revisions to Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) aimed at progressively reducing pollutants such as sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter. In 2012 for ships operating outside Emission Control Areas ECAs the global cap on marine fuel sulphur content was reduced from 4.5% to 3.5% and a further reduction to 0.5% was schedules for 2020.

Ships may still use higher sulphur fuel providing they meet the SOx emission requirements by using approved equivalent methods such as special scrubbers to remove sulphur from exhaust.

A number of interest parties had questioned whether there would be sufficient quantities of marine fuel with a sulphur content of 0.5% available by 2020 and had suggested a deferral until 2025. The original amendments agreed that a review should by undertaken by 2018 to look at this issue.

IMO commissioned CE Delft to assess the availability of fuel oil with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5% by 2020, comparing demand for and supply of compliant fuel oil by that year. Their final report was issued in July 2016, which concluded that “the refinery sector has the capability to supply sufficient quantities of marine fuels with a sulphur content of 0.5 percent…while also meeting demand for non-marine fuels.”

The Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and several petroleum industry groups sponsored another study by Ensys Energy & Systems Inc. and Navigistics Consulting which conclude that the IMO study “has failed to fully address the IMO’s terms of reference” in several critical areas and as such “it is not possible to determine that the global refining industry will have the capacity to produce enough marine fuel by 2020.”

BIMCO noted the additional daily operating cost for a ship burning 100 tons of fuel a day to comply with the 0.5% sulphur limit could be $15,000 to $30,000 based on historical price differential ranging from $150 to $300 per ton of low-sulphur fuel.

The current sulphur content cap of 0.1% set for marine fuel oil on vessels operating in ECAs will not change. An original limited of 1.0% was established in 1 July 2010 then lowered to 0.1% on 1 January 2015. The ECAs established under MARPOL Annex VI for SOx are: the Baltic Sea area; the North Sea area; most of the United States coast, Canada coast, around Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

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