By Libby George
London – The International Maritime Organization (IMO) intends to ban ships that do not have equipment to strip sulphur from carrying fuel that has a sulphur content above new limits in 2020, an IMO official said.
The ban, which still has to go through two formal approval steps, was presented at IMO compliance meetings earlier this month. It would make enforcing the new limits on sulphur in shipping fuels significantly easier, cutting into the expected rule-breaking.
“There wasn’t that dissent, and that implies there will be general support,” Edmund Hughes, the IMO head of air pollution and energy efficiency told a panel at International Petroleum Week in London. “There is no reason to have non-compliant fuel oil on the ship” if you don’t have equipment to remove the sulphur, Hughes said. He added that the rule was important in order to ensure a “level playing field globally.”
IMO committees will vote to formally approve the rule, which would take effect on March 1, 2020, at meetings in April and October, Hughes said.
Coming IMO rules will slash the amount of sulphur emissions that ships worldwide are allowed to burn from 3.5 to 0.5 percent by 2020.
The change is the most significant for the global shipping and refining sectors in decades, and most are divided on issues ranging from which fuels ships will use, to how many vessels will try to break the rules.
Ships that install “scrubbers” to remove sulphur from fuel as they are burned can continue to use high-sulphur fuel oil, but the new IMO regulation would make it illegal for ships without them to even have the higher sulphur fuels in the tanks that provide fuel to the engines.
This would make it far easier for any country to enforce the new rules, as they would no longer have to prove that the vessel had in fact burned the fuel in its engine.
How many ships break the rules has significant implications for demand, and industry estimates of how much of the world fleet will try to break the rules has ranged from less than 10 percent to as high as 40 percent.