Implementation of sulphur 2020 limit

The 0.50% limit on sulphur in fuel oil on board ships (outside designated emission control areas or ECAs, where the limit is 0.10%) will come into effect on 1 January 2020.

The MEPC is expected to consider for approval, with a view to adoption at MEPC 73 (22-26 October 2018), draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil.

The exception would be for ships fitted with an approved “equivalent arrangement” to meet the sulphur limit – such as an exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) or so-called “scrubber” – which are already permitted under regulation 4.1 of MARPOL Annex VI. These arrangements can be used with “heavy” high sulphur fuel oil as EGCS clean the emissions and therefore can be accepted as being at least as effective at meeting the required sulphur limit. For a ship without an approved equivalent arrangement, the effect of the draft amendment, which would enter into force on 1 March 2020, would be that the sulphur content of any fuel oil used or carried for use on board shall not exceed 0.50%.

IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) is currently developing guidelines to support the implementation of the 2020 sulphur limit. An intersessional working group will meet 9 to 13 July 2018.The MEPC will be asked to approve receiving draft guidelines on ship implementation planning for 2020 directly from the intersessional working group to MEPC 73 in October, in order to ensure appropriate guidelines can be considered by MEPC 73 and issued in good time. 

Consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit for all ships will ensure a level playing field is maintained, with the result that the expected improvement of the environment and human health will be achieved. Sulphur oxides (SOx) are known to be harmful to human health, causing respiratory symptoms and lung disease. In the atmosphere, SOx can lead to acid rain, which can harm crops, forests and aquatic species, and contributes to the acidification of the oceans.

Fuel oil quality – best practice guidance 
The MEPC will consider draft best practice guidance for fuel oil purchasers/users; and for fuel oil providers.

The best practices are intended to assist in assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered to, and used onboard ships, with respect to both compliance with the MARPOL requirements and the safe and efficient operation of the ship.