Beginning January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO 2020) regulations designed to reduce sulfur emissions take effect. These regulations limit the sulfur content of fuel used on most commercial ships to no more than 0.5 percent. This is a significant reduction from the existing limit of 3.5 percent that has been in place since 2012.
The sulfur cap will be enforceable in all nations that have adopted MARPOL Annex VI. First adopted in 1997, Annex VI, “limits the main air pollutants contained in ships exhaust gas, including sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrous oxides (NOx), and prohibits deliberate emissions of ozone depleting substances (ODS). MARPOL Annex VI also regulates shipboard incineration, and the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) from tankers.”
The goal of IMO 2020 is to realize a 77 percent drop in overall sulfur emissions by 2025 as outlined in this pamphlet created and distributed by IMO.
There is no uniform policing of this new regulation, instead monitoring and enforcement will lie with governments and national authorities of member states that are party to MARPOL Annex VI. In the United States, the U.S. Coast Guard is charged with enforcement. As a special agency of the United Nations, the IMO has no regulatory or enforcement powers so fines or sanctions will be left up to individual port states.
To comply with IMO 2020, shippers can either burn cleaner fuel, invest in Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS), or retrofit their vessels to run on alternative fuels such as LNG. There has been a lot of debate over the use of open-loop vs. closed loop EGCS, which use water to clean ship exhaust gases. While the open-loop scrubber allows for the discharge of that water into the ocean, the closed-loop scrubber stores the consolidated wastes for discharge in ports.
Many places already are banning the use of open-loop scrubber operations in their ports or coastal waters and others may soon follow. Environmental regulations are a moving target. It is imperative for shipboard operators stay up-to-date with the many and sometimes confusing regulations coming down the pike. If they don’t stay current, they face the prospect of significant penalties.
Ocean Guardian’s global regulatory database simplifies environmental operations, providing ship owners and operators with verified and vetted regulations at the international, national, regional, port and company level. Ocean Guardian takes the guesswork out of environmental compliance providing the latest regulations designed to help avoid accidental discharge.
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