Australia-based fast charger company Tritium expanding to US
California SCAQMD partnering with Livermore and Los Alamos researchers on H2 sensor demonstrations

IMO sets 2020 date for ships to comply with low sulfur fuel oil requirement; 5000 ppm

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the regulatory authority for international shipping, decided to implement a global sulfur cap of 0.50% m/m (mass/mass) (5,000 ppm) on fuel oil starting 1 January 2020 during its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), meeting for its 70th session in London.

The cap represents a significant cut from the 3.5% m/m (35,000 ppm) global limit currently in place and demonstrates a clear commitment by IMO to ensuring shipping meets its environmental obligations.

Heavy fuel oil (HFO) is the predominant marine fuel. It is viscous, dirty, inexpensive and widely available. Because of its high sulfur content, maritime shipping accounts for 8% of global emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), making the industry an important source for acid rain as well as respiratory diseases.

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim welcomed the decision which he said reflected the Organization’s determination to ensure that international shipping remains the most environmentally sound mode of transport.

Further work to ensure effective implementation of the 2020 global sulfur cap will continue in the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR).

Regulations governing sulfur oxide emissions from ships are included in Annex VI to the International Convention for the prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL Convention). Annex VI sets progressive stricter regulations in order to control emissions from ships, including sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrous oxides (NOx)—which present major risks to both the environment and human health.

The date of 2020 was agreed in amendments adopted in 2008. When those amendments were adopted, it was also agreed that a review should be undertaken by 2018 in order to assess whether sufficient compliant fuel oil would be available to meet the 2020 date. If not, the date could be deferred to 2025. That review was completed in 2016 and submitted to MEPC 70. The review concluded that sufficient compliant fuel oil would be available to meet the fuel oil requirements.

Under the new global cap, ships will have to use fuel oil on board with a sulfur content of no more than 0.50% m/m, against the current limit of 3.50%, which has been in effect since 1 January 2012. The interpretation of “fuel oil used on board” includes use in main and auxiliary engines and boilers. Exemptions are provided for situations involving the safety of the ship or saving life at sea, or if a ship or its equipment is damaged.

Ships can meet the requirement by using low-sulfur compliant fuel oil. An increasing number of ships are also using gas as a fuel as when ignited it leads to negligible sulfur oxide emissions. This has been recognized in the development by IMO of the International Code for Ships using Gases and other Low Flashpoint Fuels (the IGF Code), which was adopted in 2015. Another alternative fuel is methanol which is being used on some short sea services.

Ships may also meet the SOx emission requirements by using approved equivalent methods, such as exhaust gas cleaning systems or “scrubbers”, which “clean” the emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. In this case, the equivalent arrangement must be approved by the ship’s Administration (the flag State).

The new global cap will not change the limits in SOx Emission Control Areas (ECAS) established by IMO, which since 1 January 2015 has been 0.10% m/m. The ECAs established under MARPOL Annex VI for SOx are: the Baltic Sea area; the North Sea area; the North American area (covering designated coastal areas off the United States and Canada); and the United States Caribbean Sea area (around Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands).



Car diesel is about 50 ppm and can be made from plant oil like Neste/Propel HPR with NO sulfur. I would rather see ships used LNG in SOFCs.

Account Deleted

Long-distance shipping should be replaced with submerged hyperloops moving containers at 1000 miles per hour with zero emission because the hyperloop is fully electric. Just one connection over the Atlantic is enough capacity for all imports and exports. It would also do away with long-distance airplanes. Not needed either in a world where hyperloops connect the planet for physical transport of humans and goods. The hyperloops could also be used to lay superconductive cables that could connect the grid into one big global grid that could easily handle intermittencies from a 100% renewable based power generation sector.

Brian P

Ships have very long service lives (25 - 30 years). Using low sulfur fuel is something that can be done that benefits emissions from not only new ships but also existing ships. Using LNG, or alternative powertrains in general, is something that is only viable on a new ship, since it has to be engineered in, not added on, and then it takes a long time for the fleet to be renewed.

As for the post above ... Let's see the cost estimate to cross the Pacific ocean ... someone needs to do some math for us. Realistic numbers, please, not just hopelessly optimistic randomness. And you want to have just one connection? Not much redundancy there. One ship that goes down is a tragic loss, but nothing compared to what would happen if that single connection went down - or if something happened at the terminal at either end. It would sure be a target for the terrorists out there.

A ship can sail from any port that it can fit into, to any other port in the world that it can fit into. Same with airplanes. Can't do that with fixed links. Travel with any such system would require a whole lot of stopovers and transfers - just like taking the bus or train, but waaaaaay worse if expanded to a global scale.

How does that proposed Hyperloop deal with crossing tectonic plate boundaries (earthquake zones)? I genuinely don't know the answer to this. A connection between Australia and Asia would have to gradually become shorter over time ... and it would have to cross a pretty active geological zone which also happens to be an ecologically sensitive zone. For that matter, much of the west coast of North America is either geologically active or ecologically sensitive or both. Major construction projects on land in a lot of British Columbia are hard to get done.


LNG could work, the diesels can run on it, more terminals are being built.
It is cheap and low sulfur, it can be retrofit without major cost nor difficulty.

The comments to this entry are closed.