Fuel used in international maritime transport is regulated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as MARPOL. Its Annex VI sets limits on ship exhaust emissions and also limits the sulphur content of fuels.
The global IMO limit has been modified at the 70th meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC70) which took place in October 2016. IMO members adopted a reduced maximum of 0.5% of sulphur content in marine fuels by 2020.
The Baltic Sea, the North Sea, the English Channel, and the coastline of North America are Emission Control Areas (ECAs) where special emission limits apply. The rest of the world is subject to the “global IMO” limit, unless more restrictive local regulation applies.
The IMO decision was taken following a comprehensive debate on the matter of low sulphur fuel availability by 2020.
This IMO decision is aligned with the European legislation which, already back in 2012, sets the date of introduction of the 0.50% limit by 2020 in European waters (territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and pollution control zones).
Since this represents an unprecedented challenge for the industry that, will result in a very significant change in global marine fuel requirements, regional and national petroleum refining industry associations have set up a Marine Fuels 2020 Platform. It aims at promoting a globally consistent approach to the transition to lower sulphur marine fuels and emissions, and creating a level playing field for marine fuel suppliers in all regions, avoiding competitive distortions and any reputational risks for the relevant industries.