Home » Breaking News, Maritime » IMO starts 6-month countdown to ‘sulfur 2020’

Just six months to go, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) said it continues to prepare ahead of implementation, and to update stakeholders on the latest guidance, treaty amendments, and other instruments to support the execution of the “sulfur 2020” rule.

From January 1, 2020, under IMO’s MARPOL convention for the prevention of pollution from ships, the sulfur content of fuel oil used by ships operating outside designated emission control areas shall not exceed 0.50%—representing an 80% cut from the current 3.50% limit.

At a roundtable meeting with industry participants on June 21, IMO gave updates on the latest decisions from IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 74), including adoption of guidelines on consistent implementation, port state control and other guidance.

Updates were also given on decisions from the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 101), including the adoption of recommended interim measures to enhance the safety of ships relating to the use of oil fuel.

Participants committed to enhance collaboration, including further information sharing among stakeholders, to make a smooth transition to the 0.50% limit.

Views were exchanged on the general availability of fuel to meet the 0.50% limit, with ships expected to begin taking on 0.50% low-sulfur blended fuels from October/November onwards, in order to be ready for January 1, 2020.

A forecast from the International Energy Agency in April 2019 predicted that the refineries will have capacity to make the compliant fuel oil available. Compliant fuel oil has already been made available for testing by some ships.

The oil refinery and bunker industry was urged to continue and strengthen their efforts to provide sufficient compliant fuels as early as possible to allow more ships to test trial and gain experience. More information was also needed on the new fuel products to be made widely available.

Potential safety issues with new blends of fuel oil have been recognized, and IMO guidelines provide advice on steps to take to address those risks.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has been developing a publicly available specification (PAS) related to the 0.50% limit. The PAS will provide additional guidance on the application of the existing ISO 8217 specification for fuels for use in marine diesel engines and boilers, for example, compatibility and stability of new blends of fuel oil.

The roundtable participants highlighted the need to provide further information before the end of 2019 on arising safety issues and to enhance crew training in anticipation of the new fuels being made available, and to highlight the safety aspects in particular.

Consistent enforcement by port state control was recognized as essential to ensure a level playing field and ensure the shipping market would not become distorted. Participants acknowledged the adoption of relevant 2019 Guidelines for port state control under MARPOL Annex VI chapter 3.

Participants recognized the need to further improve reporting and information sharing through the IMO Global Integrated Shipping Information system. MARPOL Annex VI requires information to be provided, including on fuel oil availability, incidents of non-availability of compliant fuel oil, and fuel oil quality.

Work is already under way to review the current MARPOL Annex VI module to provide greater scope for data entry and to make the module more user friendly.

A new IMO leaflet (download here) outlines the requirement, answers the most frequently asked questions about the rule, and provides a list of the instruments supporting implementation, best practice guidance, port state control and sampling guidelines and others.

Finally, IMO will publish a compilation of all related guidance, best practices and so on, as a single IMO publication (hard copy and electronic formats) later this year.

Photo: Kaohsiung container port

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