Shipping fuel regulation to cut sulphur levels comes into force

(The Guardian, 1 Jan 2020) New rules introduced by International Maritime Organisation expected to reduce certain forms of air pollution.

Sulphur will be cut drastically from global shipping transport fuels in 2020, in a move that should reduce some forms of air pollution, and may help towards tackling the climate emergency – but which could also lead to a rise in the price of flights.

From 1 January 2020, ships will only be allowed to use fuel oil with a very low sulphur content, under rules brought in by the International Maritime Organisation. This cut in sulphur content has been more than a decade in the planning, and almost all shipping around the world is expected to comply, or face penalties.

“Member states, the shipping industry and fuel oil suppliers have been working for the past three years to prepare for this major change – I am confident that the benefits will soon be felt and that implementation will be smooth,” said Kitack Lim, the secretary general of the IMO. “This [is a] hugely important change which will have significant positive benefits for human health and the environment.”

The new regulations are aimed at cleaning up sulphur emissions, which can cause acid rain and other forms of air pollution, rather than tackling the climate emergency. However, the dirty forms of fuel that contain high levels of sulphur are usually higher carbon too, and the costs of cleaning up sulphur may spur shipping companies to become more efficient in their fuel use, which would cut greenhouse gas emissions directly.

Moving to cleaner fuels could add substantially to costs, from an estimated $400 (£303) a tonne for fuel oil today to as much as $600 a tonne, according to the International Chamber of Shipping. Higher shipping costs may be absorbed throughout the manufacturing and transport supply chains.

External link

The Guardian, 1 Jan 2020: Shipping fuel regulation to cut sulphur levels comes into force