The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set 1 January 2020 as the deadline for ships to comply with low sulphur fuel oil requirements, in a bid to improve the environment and human health.

In 2008, the IMO took the decision to apply a global sulphur cap of 0.50% mass/mass (m/m) in 2020.

As per the new requirement, ships will have to use fuel oil on-board with a sulphur content of no more than 0.50% m/m against the current limit of 3.50%.

"Ships can use low-sulphur compliant fuel oil, or gas or methanol in order to meet the newly set deadline."

However, exemptions will be offered for situations including the safety of the ship or saving life at sea.

The IMO said that the sub-committee on pollution prevention and response (PPR) will look after the effective implementation of the 2020 global sulphur cap.

International Maritime Organization secretary-general Kitack Lim said: “The reductions in sulphur oxide emissions resulting from the lower global sulphur cap are expected to have a significant beneficial impact on the environment and on human health, particularly that of people living in port cities and coastal communities, beyond the existing emission control areas.”

Ships can use low-sulphur compliant fuel oil, or gas or methanol in order to meet the newly set deadline.

Additionally, various exhaust gas cleaning systems or scrubbers, approved by the ship’s respective administrations, can be used by ships to meet sulphur oxides (SOx) emission requirements.

The IMO also noted that the new sulphur cap would not change the current limits of 0.10% m/m in SOx emission control areas (ECAS) established by the organisation.

The specified ECAs include the Baltic Sea area; the North Sea area; the North American area including designated coastal areas off the US and Canada; and the US Caribbean Sea area, including the area around Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Image: Decision to implement a global sulphur cap of 0.50% m/m in 2020 was taken by International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2008. Photo: courtesy of International Maritime Organization (IMO).