The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has ruled that its 0.5% sulphur emissions cap should be implemented by 2020.
Delegates at the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) were tasked with deciding whether the cap should be implemented by 2020 or 2025.
The global cap on the content of sulphur in marine fuel by 2020 or 2025 was first agreed in 2008. The sulphur limit for marine heavy fuel oil is 3,500 times higher than the limit for diesel used in Europe’s cars and trucks, making the shipping industry by far the world’s biggest emitter of SO2.
Bill Hemmings, shipping director at Transport & Environment, said: “This is a landmark decision and we are very pleased that the world has bitten the bullet and is now tackling poisonous sulphuric fuel in 2020. This decision reduces the contribution of shipping to the world’s air pollution impact from about 5% down to 1.5% and will save millions of lives in the coming decades.”
The Maersk Group also publicly supported the decision, tweeting: “Global regulations will help create a level playing field for the shipping industry.”
However, industry figures have previously warned CM that sulphur caps are difficult to enforce. Hapag-Lloyd’s director of environment fleet management Wolfram Gunterman told CM in January 2016: ““Looking ahead to 2020 more challenges with regard to enforcement will evolve with the global cap in international waters.”
Referring to the existing North European and North American 0.1% sulphur cap, he added: “Today, we are experiencing compliance checks through the port state control when the ship is in port. However, robust enforcement solutions for the high seas have still to be developed.”
Campaign group Transport & Environment is also concerned about implementation and enforcement. Hemmings said: “Now the focus should shift towards implementing this decision, which is a big issue since it’s not yet clear who should police ships on the high seas, and how.”
To work this out, the IMO has tasked its sub-committee on pollution prevention and response with developing guidelines on implementation and enforcement.