This Thursday, The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) decided to set a cap of 0.5% in sulphur emissions by 2020.
The date was announced after a 3 hours debate during the 70th session of the MEPC. In the discussion participated a committee of 13 member states, one intergovernmental organization, and six international non-governmental organizations.
Why are SOx emissions such an important issue for shipping industry?
Sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) are two of the main sources of pollution in the shipping industry and these emissions are due to the presence of the sulphur compound in the vessel’s fuel.
The combustion of marine fuel produces sulphur oxides that in combination with NOx will form sulphuric acid, a major cause of acid rain.
The most common types of marine fuel are low grade with a high presence of sulphur, for example, heavy oil and diesel oil. Better the grade, lower will be the sulphur content as it is removed by the refining of the fuel.
Out of controlled emissions areas, the sulphur content of oil used in any onboard ship should not exceed 3.5% m/m., but in controlled areas, this level reduces to 1.0% m/m.
According to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, the consequences of excessive exposure to SOx go from health effects on eyes, lung, and throat to acid rain. The pollutants travel thousands of kilometers and causing damages in rivers, lakes, and soils, wildlife, and vegetation.
Before the MEPC debate, BIMCO said that there is not enough capacity to produce enough low sulphur fuel by 2020 to comply the regulation:
“It is clear that the IMO study is flawed, meaning it is not possible to determine from the study that there would be sufficient fuel available in 2020. On that basis, our opinion is that it would be irresponsible for IMO to make the decision to go for 2020 at MEPC 70 in October. There is clearly a need for additional analysis to ensure the supply chain for global trade is not seriously disrupted and developing nations are not hit hard by a lack of affordable energy,” Lars Robert Pedersen, Deputy Secretary General at BIMCO, said.