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Sulphur emissions to be capped by 2020

The IMO has agreed to set a cap on the sulphur content of marine fuels sold around the world by 2020.

A session of the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee in London set the new requirements which will see sulphur emissions fall from the current maximum of 3.5% of fuel content in place since 1 January 2012 to 0.5%.

Ships can meet the requirement by using low-sulphur compliant fuel oil or by using approved equivalent methods, such as exhaust gas cleaning systems or “scrubbers”, which “clean” the emissions before they are released into the atmosphere.

The move is expected to slash SO2 emissions in the shipping industry by 85% compared to today’s levels. However, there is concern as to how suppliers will accommodate the transition and how the physical switch over will take place.  The most recent switch from 0.5% to 0.1% sulphur in LSFO saw a number of disputes over how to deal with the higher sulphur LSFO remaining on board vessels at the date of the switch.   The 2020 move is expected to have much greater consequences. 

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