The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has cut the sulphur cap for ships from the 3.5% m/m (mass/mass) global limit currently in place, down to 0.50% m/m, effective January 1, 2020. Proactive shipping companies and passenger transporters with LNG-fuelled vessels already operating or under construction are well-positioned to comply.
IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim welcomed the decision taken during its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting for its 70th session in London, which he said reflected the Organization’s determination to ensure international shipping remains the most environmentally sound mode of transport.
“The reductions in sulphur oxide emissions resulting from the lower global sulphur cap are expected to have a significant beneficial impact on the environment and on human health, particularly that of people living in port cities and coastal communities, beyond the existing emission control areas,” Mr. Lim said.
The European Commission advises exhaust gases from ships are a major source of air pollution. According to estimates, shipping accounts for up to 30% of total global NOX emissions and 9% of SOX.
Peter Keller, Chairman of SEA\LNG which was formed this year to highlight the benefits of, and promote, LNG as a marine fuel, sees LNG as a viable alternative. “Today, LNG is already a clean, safe, practical and economically viable fuel for the shipping industry.”
Keller explains LNG emits zero sulphur oxides (SOx) and virtually zero particulate matter. Compared to existing heavy marine fuel oils, LNG can, depending on the technology used, emit 90% less nitrous oxides (NOx) and 20-25% less carbon dioxide (CO2).
The decision to implement the requirement will have a major economic impact according to ICS (International Chamber of Shipping). The organisation states: “The decision will be highly significant because the cost of compliant low sulphur fuel is likely to be well over 50% more than the cost of residual fuel. Residual fuel is what most ships currently burn outside of the ECAs. … if by 2020, as some predict, oil prices increase to something approaching US$ 70 a barrel (still well short of the peak in 2014) it has been estimated that the differential between compliant and residual fuel could spike by as much as USD 400 a tonne.”
According to the IMO press release, under the new global cap ships will have to use fuel oil on board with a sulphur content of no more than 0.50% m/m, which includes fuel 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.
An increasing number of ships are using natural gas as a fuel (see NGV Global News – Marine). This has been recognised 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.
According to DNVGL, while different technologies can be used to comply with air emission limits, LNG technology is the only option that can meet requirements for the main types of emissions (SOx, NOx, PM, CO2). The classification society says LNG can be competitive pricewise with distillate fuels and, unlike other solutions, in many cases does not require the installation of additional process technology.
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 the International Convention for the prevention of Pollution from ships (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).
Further work to ensure effective implementation of the 2020 global sulphur cap will continue in the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR).
Annex VI to the MARPOL Convention sets progressive stricter regulations in order to control emissions from ships, including sulphur 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.
(Sources: IMO, ICS)