In February 2018, the International Maritime Organization’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 5) will discuss the introduction of a ban on the carriage of high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) as bunkers on ships without scrubbers.
The proposal would be considered at the 5th session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee as part of an effort to promote consistent implementation of the 0.50% global sulphur limit which takes effect from the start of 2020.
The International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) presented a suite of proposals at the PPR 4 in January this year regarding implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit in 2020.
A paragraph from the submission reads “It is already within the powers of PSCOs to enforce compliance within their coastal waters to ensure the coastal State is reaping the air quality benefits of the regulation. Should evidence emerge that implementation is uneven, measures to enhance more universal compliance may be considered, for example by making it an offence under the regulation for a ship to carry fuels above 0.50% sulphur unless that ship has approved alternative compliance methods installed, or a valid exemption,”.
Norway suggested to PPR 4 that the Sub-Committee should consider “a specific prohibition” to carry bunkers exceeding 0.50% sulphur right away, and intends to bring a more detailed proposal to PPR 5 in the hope of introducing a carriage-ban as soon as possible.
IBIA informed that a carriage ban on HSFO as bunkers for ships without valid exemptions “could make it easier to enforce the global sulphur cap as this can be detected in port, either by document check or by sampling and analysis of the fuel oil.”
During PPR 4, It was also suggested that the ban should be on both the carriage and sales of HSFO to ships. Concrete suggestions were not discussed in details at the meeting in January because the main task given to the Sub-Committee from the 70th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 70) was to identify “justification and scope for a new output on what additional measures may be developed to promote consistent implementation of the 0.50% global sulphur limit”
A “new output” means adding a new work item to the IMO’s agenda, and can only be approved by the IMO’s main Committees. PPR 4 developed the new output proposal and it was approved by MEPC 71 I July, meaning PPR can now discuss and make recommendations to MEPC on concrete proposals.
From 2020, a ship will have no legitimate reason to bunker fuel with more than 0.50% sulphur unless it has approved abatement technology or a valid exemption to trial such technology.
The only other valid reason would be a situation where the ship could not obtain marine fuel with less than 0.50% sulphur because there was no availability in its bunkering port at the time.
But MARPOL Annex VI does not ban a ship from carrying high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO); it only regulates sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions which have to be met either through using low sulphur fuel or cleaning SOx out of the exhaust gas.
According to IBIA “It isn’t clear yet how a carriage ban could be written into the regulation. It would require changes to MARPOL Annex VI and this usually requires MEPC to specifically approve a “new output” to amend the regulation.”
However, the scope for the “new output” on implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit approved at MEPC 71 did include a paragraph to consider “any consequential regulatory amendments and/or guidelines necessary to address issues raised or otherwise considered necessary to ensure consistent implementation” so it might be allowed under this output.
IBIA further said “if a regulatory change to introduce such a carriage ban reaches agreement stage at PPR 5, and gets sent to MEPC 72 for approval and then gets formally adopted at MEPC 73, it could enter into force as soon as March 1, 2020.”