The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has assured that their is no going back on the enforcement of the 2020 sulfur cap, which means that as of January 1, 2020, ships will be banned from burning any marine fuel with a sulfur content above 0.5 pct.
IMO's Secretary General, Kitack Lim, said: "The lower global sulfur limit will have a significant beneficial impact on the environment and on human health, particularly that of people living in port cities and coastal communities,"
IMO's sub-committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR), which met recently in London, agreed on draft amendments to the MARPOL Convention on the prevention of pollution from ships (MARPOL Annex VI) to prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil.
The PPR deals with all matters ranging from the MARPOL Convention anexes, the control and management of harmful aquatic organisms in ships' ballast water and sediments, biofouling, anti-fouling system, pollution preparedness, response and cooperation for oil and hazardous and noxious substances to environmentally sound ship recycling.
The exception would be ships fitted with an approved "equivalent arrangement" to meet the sulfur 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. A ship undertaking trials for ship emission reduction and control technology research can be exempted as well.
The amendments have been forwarded to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 72) meeting slated for April 2018, for urgent consideration. Once approved by MEPC 72, they could be adopted at MEPC 73 (October 2018) and could enter into force on March 1, 2020.
Senior policy advisor at Seas At Risk and president of the Clean Shipping Coalition (CSC), John Maggs, said: "This is an important development that closes a serious loophole in the original agreement. Banning the carriage of non-compliant fuel will make it considerably more difficult for unscrupulous ship operators to ignore the rule, burn cheaper non-compliant fuel, and escape serious sanction. This decision, which must be confirmed by the IMO in April, will mean a cleaner environment and fewer premature deaths from ship air pollution,"
Ship air pollution is linked to approximately 400,000 premature deaths from lung cancer and cardiovascular disease alone and around 14 million childhood asthma cases annually, according to the latest research.
It is also estimated that the new marine sulfur cap will help avoid around 700,000 cancer and cardiovascular disease-related premature deaths and around 40 million childhood asthma cases during the first five years of its implementation.
Shipping officer at Transport & Environment, a member of the CSC, Faig Abbasov, said: "The ban on burning high-sulfur fuel that was agreed in 2016 had the right objective, but requires robust enforcement as the additional cost of compliance brings a significant incentive to cheat.
By following through with a ban on carrying non-compliant high sulfur fuel, governments would better ensure no one can simply switch to the cheaper, dirty fuel once they leave port and are out of sight of the authorities,"
Executive Director at Danske Shipping, Maria Skipper Schwenn, said: "This week has been a good example of how the IMO countries take responsibility for both the environment and the shipping industry's competitiveness.