The global 2020 sulphur cap comes into effect at the start of January and is the result of serious and long-debated discussions about an industry that is responsible for an estimated 2.5% of global greenhouse emissions. It has taken 20 years to get used to the ever changing regulations that started with the MARPOL Convention 1997 Protocol and have now resulted in the IMO 2020 global sulphur cap. Remember that figure – 2020 and why it is so important with just under 18 months to go. These things always take time and it’s worth looking at the what the IMO put out about the decision to start the global cap on 1 January 2020:

“The date of 1 January 2020 was set in the regulations adopted in 2008. However, a provision was adopted, requiring IMO to review the availability of low sulphur fuel oil for use by ships, to help Member States determine whether the new lower global cap on sulphur emissions from international shipping shall come into effect on 1 January 2020 or be deferred until 1 January 2025.
IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 70), in October 2016, decided that the 0.50% limit should apply from 1 January 2020.” So even with the decisions and implementation years way, there was and still is an air of uncertainty surrounding the availability of the new fuel and the locations it will be bunkered. But we’ve talked about this issue for the past few months and so maybe we should ask a different question: “How prepared are you for the start of the cap?”

By now you will have (or hopefully will have) made your decision about new fuel, scrubbers, alternative fuel or fuel treatments. But have you decided on your time scales or the amount of investment and work you will need to put in to be ready for the first day of this new world of low sulphur fuel? It won’t all be down to new fuel, new generation marine diesel engines, slower steaming or even scrubbers: it will be down to the work put in to cleaning tanks beforehand and the logistics of your fuel operations.

You can’t just mix the new fuel with old; there isn’t a solution to this and anyway, the associated problems of blended fuels have been debated for the past year and there is no light at the end of that tunnel. The real issue is how and when you should start cleaning your fuel tanks prior to the commencement of the cap. We don’t believe there will be anyone waiting until the middle of December 2019 to start cleaning tanks and then hunting round for the new fuel: these things take time and with the lack of clear information currently available on where the new fuel will be bunkered, who can afford to leave it to the last minute? Tank cleaning will be vital to have sorted before the end of next year so you can source and fill up on the compliant low sulphur fuel. Fuel treatments will be even more important in this new regime to avoid the concerns of contamination and corrosion. But whatever happens between now and the dog days of 2019, we all need to be working together to ensure we are compliant and able to operate.