LONDON (Reuters) – Sweeping new fuel rules aiming to cut pollution belching from ships and save lives are now just a couple of weeks away but with no central policing agency and several countries still not signed up to them, compliance is a major concern.
From January 2020, ships must use fuel with a sulphur content of 0.5%, down from 3.5%, or install devices that strip out the toxic pollutant – known as scrubbers.
As a result, refiners and shipping companies will spend billions of dollars in the years ahead on ensuring fuel and engines comply.
But enforcement of the United Nations convention on cleaner fuels – known as MARPOL Annex VI – rests with individual countries and flag states, meaning for some routes and regions, compliance is already looking patchy.
A handful of major states resisted pressure this month at the UN’s COP25 climate talks in Madrid to ramp up efforts to combat global warming, underscoring a need for collective action to cut carbon emissions and wider pollution.
Despite two decades in the making, countries such as Israel and New Zealand have been unable to sign up in time for the 2020 IMO start date, while others such as Malaysia are considering how to apply the rules.
“I am sure there will be pockets (of non-compliance) initially,” said Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping association.
“Without coordination and consistency, shipowners will be placed in a no-win situation,” he said.
So far, over 90 countries have adopted the rules, which were set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), leaving large parts of Africa and South America yet to sign up.