IMO hails effective and successful 2020 sulphur limit
The implementation of IMO 2020 brought about a 70% cut in total sulphur oxide emissions from shipping, and it has been remarkably smooth, according to information received and reviewed by the IMO.
In a statement at the end of January, IMO said the smooth transition was “a testament to the preparations of all stakeholders prior to the new rules entering into force”.
IMO received only 55 reports of non-availability of fuels complying with the 0.50% sulphur limit during 2020. “Given that more than 60,000 ships plied the world’s oceans in trade last year, this was a remarkably low percentage of ships encountering difficulty in obtaining compliant fuel. We had a great deal of preparation during 2019 and before, from all stakeholders and all indications are that there have been no significant issues with supply of low sulphur fuel oil,” commented Roel Hoenders, Head of Air Pollution and Energy Efficiency at IMO.
IMO 2020 compliant fuels include very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) and marine gas oil (MGO).
Under MARPOL Annex VI, ships may use exhaust gas cleaning systems, or scrubbers, as an alternative means to meet the sulphur limit. Over 2,350 such systems have formally been reported to IMO as an approved “equivalent method” by Administrations (flag States), meaning they can carry and use high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO).
There were many concerns about the safety of the VLSFO blends to meet the 0.50% sulphur limit. Both the IMO and industry issued detailed guidance ahead of 2020 on dealing with the new fuel blends, including assessing and managing risks and highlighting potential safety risks, so that the risks can be mitigated. IBIA contributed significantly to developing such guidance, and helped raise awareness of issues to help stakeholders prepare. The preparations have paid off.
The IMO said that through 2020, and during the first month of 2021, it has not received any reports of safety issues linked to VLSFO.
Nonetheless, during 2020, an IMO correspondence group considered fuel oil safety issues in general and the need for further mandatory requirements to ensure fuel oil supplied meets the required standards and quality. IBIA has participated in this work. The report will be discussed at the next session of IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee, MSC 103 in May 2021.