Overview of Low-Sulphur Bunker Fuel Regulations in Shipping

In recent years, there has been growing concern in maritime industry news about the environmental impact of shipping, particularly concerning air pollution. One of the primary contributors to this is the fuel used by ships, which is typically high in sulphur content. To address this issue, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has implemented new regulations regarding the usage of low-sulphur bunker fuel. Continue reading to learn more about these regulations and how they affect the shipping industry.

Bunker Fuel: A Major Contributor to Air Pollution

Bunker fuel, a type of heavy fuel oil used to power ship engines, is typically produced through the refining of crude oil and contains high levels of sulphur. When burned, it releases sulphur dioxide into the air, an air pollutant that can cause respiratory problems and other health issues in humans.

New Regulations to Address High-Sulphur Fuel Use

To address this issue, the IMO has implemented new regulations under MARPOL Annex VI, which limits the sulphur content of bunker fuel to 0.50% m/m (mass by mass) starting from January 1, 2020. This is a significant reduction from the previous limit of 3.50% m/m, which has been in place since 2012.

The low-sulphur fuel oil regulations apply to all ships operating in international waters, regardless of their flag state or country of registration. There are, however, some exemptions and other compliance alternatives available for vessels that are unable to use low-sulphur fuel, such as those equipped with sulphur-reduction scrubbers.

Impact of New Regulations on the Shipping Industry

The implementation of these new regulations has had a significant impact on the shipping industry, particularly in terms of the cost of low-sulphur bunker fuel, which is more expensive to produce than high-sulphur fuel. This price increase has increased transportation expenses as carriers pass on the higher costs to their customers.

Despite the challenges brought about by the surge in low-sulphur fuel prices, several carriers have taken proactive measures to comply with the new regulations. One of the measures is the installation of scrubbers, which remove sulphur from exhaust fumes, enabling ships to continue using high-sulphur fuel while still complying with the higher emissions standards. Additionally, some carriers have invested in alternative fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) or biofuels, which help reduce emissions and meet the new regulations.

Benefits of New Regulations for Air Quality and Climate Change

Lowering sulphur emissions can have significant and far-reaching benefits, particularly for those living and working near ports and shipping lanes. This is because sulphur has detrimental effects on cardiovascular and respiratory health and has been linked to health problems such as asthma and heart disease. Thus, the new low-sulphur fuel oil regulations will help to mitigate these health issues.

In addition, sulphur dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas that is a significant contributor to global warming. The new regulations aim to reduce the amount of sulphur emitted by ships to help mitigate climate change. This is especially critical as the shipping industry is expected to grow to 13.19 billion tons by 2028, substantially increasing greenhouse gas emissions if no action is taken.

Although the implementation costs of IMO’s low sulphur regulations in 2020 have been high, the potential benefits of improved air quality and reduced greenhouse gas emissions are substantial. The positive effects of these changes are anticipated to extend to both ecosystems and people living near ports and coastlines.

IMO’s Target for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Shipping

In an effort to combat climate change and reduce the environmental impact of maritime activities, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has established a challenging and vital goal of cutting down greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping industry by 50% by 2050, relative to 2008 levels.

The marine industry must undergo significant changes to accomplish this goal. One approach is the utilisation of alternative fuels, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and biofuels. LNG produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional bunker fuel, and biofuels derived from renewable sources such as vegetable oils or animal fats can reduce emissions while lowering industry dependency on fossil fuels.

Improvements in vessel design and operation, such as more efficient engines and hull designs, can also reduce fuel consumption and emissions. Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, can further supplement a ship’s energy requirements while also lowering emissions.

Shipping companies will also need to rethink their business models, including implementing measures such as slow steaming, greater cooperation with ports, and enhancing logistical planning to cut fuel consumption and emissions while still reaching business goals.

Conclusion: Significant Step Towards Sustainability

IMO’s low sulphur regulations in 2020 are a crucial step towards reducing the environmental impact of the shipping industry. While they have increased carrier and consumer costs, the benefits of improved air quality and lower greenhouse gas emissions are substantial.

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