IMO moves to ban non-compliant fuel on board ships in 2020

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The International Maritime Organization’s Subcommittee on Pollution Prevention and Response has proposed to move forward with banning the transport of non-compliant low-sulfur fuel on board ships when the 0.5 percent low sulfur limit takes effect in 2020.


   The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Subcommittee on Pollution Prevention and Response, which met in London this week, has proposed to move forward with banning the transport of non-compliant low-sulfur fuel on board ships when the 0.5 percent low sulfur limit enters force in 2020.
   To ensure consistent implementation of the IMO’s low-sulfur regulation, the subcommittee also agreed to draft amendments to the MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) convention’s Annex VI to impose the transport prohibition on fuel with a sulfur content of more than 0.5 percent. 
   An exception would be made for ships fitted with an approved technology to meet the 0.5 percent sulfur content limit, such as scrubbers. Another option is using liquefied natural gas to power ships’ engines.
   This rule will be in addition to the existing requirement for ships to burn fuel with sulfur content not exceeding 0.1 percent in the so-called Emission Control Areas (ECAs), which started in 2015. ECAs include areas within 200 miles of the coast of the United States and Canada, the Great Lakes, and the Caribbean, as well as the North Sea, Baltic and English Channel. ECAs are also under consideration for the Far East.
   The IMO subcommittee has forwarded the proposed draft amendments to the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 72) meeting in April, for “urgent consideration.” Once approved by the MEPC 72, the draft amendments could be adopted at MEPC 73 (October 2018) and enter into force on March 1, 2020 (just two months after the 0.50 percent limit comes into effect), the IMO said.
   Meanwhile, the subcommittee agreed to develop a single set of guidelines covering all relevant aspects and provide an outline of draft guidelines for a consistent implementation of 0.5 percent sulfur fuel regulation. 
   The 2020 non-compliant fuel ban has been backed by a large swath of the maritime industry and environmental groups, who sent a letter to the IMO urging it to do so prior to the subcommittee’s meeting. The organizations included BIMCO, World Shipping Council, Clean Shipping Coalition, International Chamber of Shipping, Intertanko, International Parcel Tankers Association, Cruise Lines International Association, Pacific Environment, Friends of the Earth and WWF.
   While the organizations realize the 2020 sulfur cap will increase ship operating costs, they said it’s more important for governments to enforce the cap for the sake of environmental and health benefits that will be achieved. In addition, they warned that lack of enforcement will “lead to serious market distortion and unfair competition” for those ship operators that do comply.

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