IMO keeps to 2020 implementation for sulfur cap

   The International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) declined to postpone implementation of a cap on sulfur emissions for ships at its meeting this week.
   The IMO requirement that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020 will reduce the sulfur content permitted in ships’ fuel oil globally to just 0.5 percent or require ships burning fuel with higher sulfur content to be equipped with scrubbers to remove sulfur from ship exhaust.
    The International Chamber of Shipping said it “welcomed the adoption by IMO this week of guidelines on implementation.”
   On Friday the MEPC also adopted a measure prohibiting vessels without scrubbers from carrying fuel containing more than 0.5 percent sulfur for use on board. That will take effect on March 1, 2020.
   It said that ban on the carriage of fuel will “give governments an additional tool to ensure a level playing field.
   The International Bunker Industry Association said, We sympathize with the fears of developing countries, the least-developed countries and small island developing states that higher transport cost may have a negative impact on their economies.
   It said, Industry planning and preparations are already well under way with substantial investments being made both in the refinery sector and among shipowners to meet the 2020 deadline. If we move the target now, those preparations will be thrown into disarray.
    There have been fears by some shipowners that there could be insufficient availability of good-quality compliant fuels. However, ships that encounter genuine nonavailability situations should be able to use the standardized fuel oil nonavailability report to be developed by IMO in line with Regulation 18.2 of MARPOL Annex VI to prove that they were unable to obtain compliant fuel.
   Esben Poulsson, the chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), said his organization “is confident the sulfur cap will ultimately be a great success, bringing real health and environmental benefits to coastal populations which is what this major regulatory change is all about.”
    The World Shipping Council, which represents the container shipping industry, has been a supporter of IMO rules to address vessel air emissions. But in an interview with American Shipper, John Butler, the group’s president and CEO, cautioned the regulation will create “a magnitude of cost that’s going to be quite noticeable in the supply chain” and “the most expensive regulation that the international shipping industry has ever seen.”
   The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has said, “The 2020 requirements could add annual total costs in the order of $5 billion to $30 billion for the container shipping industry.”
   Poulsson said, “In view of the enormity of this major change it’s likely there’ll be some teething problems immediately before and after January 1, 2020.
   “Many industry associations, including ICS, have raised legitimate concerns about fuel availability, safety and compatibility of new fuels — a particular problem for those in the tramp trades. But if shipowners can demonstrate in good faith that they’ve done everything possible to follow an implementation plan — in line with the template IMO has now adopted — we hope that common sense will prevail in the event that safe and compliant fuels are not immediately available everywhere,” Poulsson said.
    ICS said, “There are still numerous complex issues that need addressing urgently by IMO, both at the MEPC next May and by the Maritime Safety Committee in December — to which the industry has already submitted a detailed paper calling on governments to better enforce fuel quality, especially as shipping companies will have to start ordering compliant fuels, including new blends, from the middle of next year.”
   Already there are parts of the world, including the coastline of most of the U.S. and Canada, Caribbean, Baltic Sea and English Channel, where even lower cap on the sulfur content of fuel — 0.1 percent applies.
   IMO said Friday there is now discussion of setting up a similar Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) in the Mediterranean Sea.
   The Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC), an IMO-administered marine pollution emergency response center in the Mediterranean, has just concluded a study to evaluate the costs and benefits of implementing a SECA in the Mediterranean region.
   “According to the study, further reducing the sulfur content of marine fuels used in the Mediterranean would bear considerable costs,” said the IMO. “However, the significant health and environmental benefits, including fewer cases of respiratory diseases and premature being deaths avoided annually resulting from improved air quality, generated by a Mediterranean SECA, could outweigh the overall costs.”
    It said the REMPEC study will be reviewed by a committee of technical experts from Mediterranean countries and the European Union. Further discussion will then take place during a regional workshop at REMPEC’s Malta headquarters in December.
    Poulsson noted that during this week’s meeting IMO also made very good progress towards implementing the ambitious GHG (greenhouse gas) reduction strategy agreed in April, adopting an action plan for the development of short term measures that will deliver additional CO2 reductions before 2023 plus longer term measures that will eventually achieve full decarbonisation of international shipping.”
   ICS said it was particularly pleased that IMO Member States have not sought to reopen the historic agreement or the CO2 reduction targets previously agreed and that governments, in partnership with industry, are totally committed to making the GHG strategy a success.”
    ICS said no concrete decisions were taken on specific new CO2 reduction measures, but said there was broad support for the industry’s proposals for mandatory auditing of Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans – the ‘Super SEEMP’ — and further improvements to the Energy Efficiency Design Index for future ships. Both are measures which ICS says can be adopted very quickly.”