Air pollution due to sulphur


BIMCO's position on "air pollution due to sulphur" has been approved by the BIMCO Board of Directors.


MARPOL Annex VI on Prevention of Air Pollution from ships entered into force in 2006. It covers sulphur and particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, ozone depleting substances and the energy efficiency of ships.

MARPOL Annex VI lowers the limit to 0.50% on the sulphur content in marine fuel oil used in areas outside designated emission control areas from 1 January 2020. This will result in a dramatic global shift from residual fuels with maximum 3.50% sulphur to primarily distillate rich blended fuel.

Studies 1  show that the refineries will not be able to produce sufficient low sulphur fuels for the bunker industry to meet demand from day one. Based on BIMCO’s initiative, IMO has tasked a working group to consider how a smooth and effective implementation of the new sulphur limit may be facilitated, as an urgent matter.

Compliance with the sulphur emission limits and effective uniform enforcement is of critical importance to ensure a level playing field as it will not be possible for compliant ships to compete with non-compliant ships.

The quality of 0.50% sulphur fuel and its fitness for use on board ships may have a negative effect on safety. Increased blending may also deteriorate the stability of low sulphur content residual-like fuel oils.

Wash water from scrubbers used to produce inert gas to avoid explosions in cargo tanks is a safety issue under SOLAS and should not be discussed in this context.

BIMCO’s position

  • The prospect of a shortfall of compliant fuel is of great concern to BIMCO because it may lead to serious market disruption and distortion.
  •  Regulatory clarity and consistency are essential for the level playing field in shipping. Maintaining agreed dates is important and BIMCO cannot support any push for delay on implementation or enforcement
  •  A robust and uniform enforcement of applicable sulphur limits is critical to ensure a level playing field for owners. A clear distinction should be made between cases, where the shipowner has bought compliant fuel which leads to minor non-compliance (just above 0.50 % sulphur) and deliberate non-compliance by using of HFO with a high sulphur content.
  •  BIMCO does not support name and shame initiatives by authorities for cases of minor non-compliance.
  •  BIMCO supports a system to collect and analyse data on fuel oil non-availability and quality as a way to enhance transparency and facilitate effective implementation of MARPOL Annex VI, regulation 18.
  •  BIMCO supports the requirements for Emission Control Areas (ECAs) as the authoritative framework for implementing regional or national air emission control measures for sulphur, particulate matter and nitrogen oxides.
  •  Regional or national regulations for emission control must be aligned with Annex VI.
  • If there is a proven negative impact on the marine environment due to the discharge of wash water from ships equipped with open loop scrubbers, BIMCO could support a proposal restricting the use of open loop scrubbers in ports and near coastal areas.


1. For example: EnSys Energy & Systems Inc., Supplemental Marine Fuel Availability Study, July 2016, and IPECA, Refiners’ perspective on the changes ahead, Rob Cox, 21 March 2017

Rasmus Nord Jorgensen
in Copenhagen, DK

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