IMO 2020 Sulphur Fuel Regulation

Luthfil Hadi - Jakarta, 29/09/2018, 14:00


On October 2016, International Maritime Organization, IMO through Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) issued a new regulation to reduce the maximum sulphur emission threshold. The last regulation was from 2005, where the maximum threshold for sulphur emission is 3.5% m/m (mass by mass).

The past regulation was issued through International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, or Annex VI MARPOL Convention. And on 2016, IMO finally issued a new regulation to replace the existing regulation. The new regulation will cut the sulphur emission’s maximum threshold from 3.5% m/m to 0.50% m/m. This means, the emission threshold will be reduced by 85% by the time the new regulation came into force.

The new regulation is called IMO 2020 Fuel Sulphur Regulation. This regulation is enacted to limit the sulphur emission from the combustion of ship’s fuel outside the Sulphur Emission Control Area (ECA-SOx). Even before the IMO 2020 Fuel Sulphur Regulation being issued, IMO already enact stricter rule for 4 areas. Those areas are Baltic Sea, North Sea, North America Sea, and United States Caribbean Sea. At those areas, the sulphur emission maximum threshold is 0.10% m/m. It means the threshold is 80% lower than the new regulation.

The fuel refinery and supplier for the 4 areas with stricter regulation have proven that they are able to supply the fuel. The fuel that they supplied has already complied the 0.10% m/m regulation. One of the fuel that they supplied to the ships trading in the area is Ultra Low Sulphur Oil Blends.

The reason behind the IMO 2020 Sulphur Fuel Regulation

IMO 2020 Sulphur Fuel Regulation will come into force on January 1st 2020. The main reason that IMO issued the regulation is because the high sulphur emission from shipping industries all over the world. Nowadays, ships oil fuel came in form of heavy oil fuel, which derived as residue from crude oil distillation. Crude oil contains sulphur that if were burned in combustion for the engine will produce Sulphur Oxide (SOx). Sulphur Oxide is a dangerous substance for human health. It could affect respiratory disorder and lungs disease. Moreover, if SOx were to reach the atmosphere, it could cause acid rain that could damage farm plants, forest, aquatic species, and it could even increase the ocean’s acidity.

Therefore, IMO release a new regulation to reduce the sulphur emission maximum threshold in 2016. IMO gave approximately 3 years for every involved parties that affected by the new regulation to prepare and complying the regulation on 2020. By limiting the sulphur emission, IMO hopes that they could protect the environment and improve the global air quality.

Affected parties

The parties that are affected by the new regulation are every ship operator in the world that is still operating in 2020. Furthermore, the fuel refinery and supplier also indirectly affected by the new regulation, as they also need to produce a fuel that comply the new regulation. Because if they can’t produce a type of fuel in compliance with the new regulation, they would have a hard time selling their product.

The refineries need to research a new type of fuel. And they need to finish it before January 1st 2020, so they could mass produce the fuel. One of the ways is to mix a high sulphur content fuel oil that is generally used with a lower sulphur content fuel to achieve a fuel that compliant fuel oil.

The ships operator could install an exhaust cleaning system, usually called ‘scrubber’. This system is accepted by the ships flag state as an alternative ways to reduce sulphur emission. Scrubbers is designed to remove sulphur oxide from the ships engine and boiler exhaust gas. Furthermore, the ships operator could choose to change their fuel using liquefied natural gas (LNG) or biofuel. But to change their fuel into 0.10% m/m compliant fuel that are already on the market in the ECA-SOx area would cost too much than to install scrubbers and using blend fuels.

IMO measures to enforce the regulation

A study sponsored by IMO on “Assessment of fuel oil availability” reach the conclusion that the refinery sector could produce a compliant fuel. The study found that producing a 0.50% m/m fuel is not an issue. It also found that the refinery sector could fulfil the fuel demand. At the moment, IMO is discussing on how to identify the potential safety issues related to blend fuels. It’s widely known that blend fuels could cause compatibility and stability issues if not managed properly.

IMO gave the monitoring, compliance, and enforcement duties to the government and state authorities from the member of MARPOL Annex VI. Furthermore, the port authorities also has the rights and responsibilities to enforce the new regulation. IMO also works together with every related industries to identify and mitigate the transitional issues that might arise. It is all done to make sure that the ships operator will not have a hard time to comply with the new regulation.

Shipping companies reaction to the new regulation

Japanese shipping company, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line) approved the new regulation form IMO. K Line state that they are already preparing the measures to comply with the new rule. K Line will adopt a myriad of measures. Some of the adopted measures are the installation of scrubber and retrofit LNG. They also adopt the low sulphur fuel oil measures for their ships..

President and CEO of K Line, Eizo Murakami said, “Implementing environmental measures will entail large costs, but it is important to take action without delay by sharing the burden fairly among beneficiaries.” He also said that K Line will start the measure from ship to ship basis. He also said that K Line will not stop with only one measures to comply with the new regulation.


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