IMO.The 2020 global sulphur limit

IMO has set a global limit for sulphur in fuel oil used on board ships of 0.50% m/m (mass by mass) from 1 January 2020. This will significantly reduce the amount of sulphur oxide emanating from ships and should have major health and environmental benefits for the world, particularly for populations living close to ports and coasts.

 When did IMO adopt regulations to control air pollution form ships?

IMO has been working to reduce harmful impacts of shipping on the environment since the 1960s. Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL Convention) was adopted in 1997, to address air pollution from shipping.

The regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships (Annex VI) seek to control airborne emissions from ships (sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ozone depleting substances (ODS), volatile organic compounds (VOC) and shipboard incineration) and their contribution to local and global air pollution, human health issues and environmental problems.

Annex VI entered into force on 19 May 2005 and a revised Annex VI with significantly strengthened requirements was adopted in October 2008 which entered into force on 1 July 2010.

The regulations to reduce sulphur oxide emissions introduced a global limit for sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil, with tighter restrictions in designated emission control areas.

What are the limits on sulphur in the regulations?

The current global limit for sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil is 3.50% m/m (mass by mass).

The new global limit will be 0.50% m/m will apply on and after 1 January 2020.

When was the date of 1 January 2020 decided?

The date of 1 January 2020 was set in the regulations adopted in 2008. However, a provision was adopted, requiring IMO to review the availability of low sulphur fuel oil for use by ships, to help Member States determine whether the new lower global cap on sulphur emissions from international shipping shall come into effect on 1 January 2020 or be deferred until 1 January 2025.

IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 70), in October 2016, decided that the 0.50% limit should apply from 1 January 2020.