Member States and industry stakeholders outline their readiness - and highlight challenges - for sulphur 2020 implementation.


"Collaboration among key stakeholders is essential for the smooth landing of IMO 2020," IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, opening the symposium, which was attended by over 300 delegates.

From 1 January 2020, sulphur oxide emissions from ships will be reduced considerably under a forthcoming International Maritime Organization (IMO) rule. This will have significant benefits for human health and the environment – but also represents a challenge for the industry.

The preparedness of all stakeholders for this significant change - as well as its challenges – were highlighted during a Symposium on IMO 2020 and Alternative Fuels, held at IMO, on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 October. The symposium brought together a range of speakers, including those from Member Governments, as well as from shipping, refineries, fuel oil suppliers and legal professionals.

 "Collaboration among key stakeholders is essential for the smooth landing of IMO 2020," IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said, opening the symposium, which was attended by over 300 delegates. He highlighted the tremendous amount of work undertaken to prepare for IMO 2020 by all stakeholders, since the 2020 date was confirmed in 2016, including a series of guidance and guidelines for shipowners as well as flag and port States.

From 1 January 2020, the "IMO 2020" rule means that the limit for sulphur in fuel oil used on board ships operating outside designated emission control areas will be reduced to 0.50% m/m (mass by mass) – while in designated emission control areas (ECAs) the limit will remain at 0.10%.  The current limit is 3.50% so the change is significant and - for most ships – will mean a switch to new types of compliant fuel oils, so-called very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO), or marine gas/diesel oil. The VLSFO blends are new to the market.   

Member States speaking at the symposium, including representatives from Denmark, Japan, Marshall Islands and Singapore, said that they were ready as flag and port States to implement and enforce the sulphur 2020 limit. Stakeholder meetings were a feature in many countries, bringing together industry and government officials to ensure preparedness. 

In terms of supply of the new fuel oil needed to meet the 2020 limit, representatives from IPIECA, representing the oil and gas industry, and IBIA, representing the bunker industry, confirmed that supply of the low sulphur fuel oil was expected to be readily available in most locations and is already available in some. Many ships will be looking to load complaint fuel oil well before the end of 2019. However, there was an expectation of price volatility and supply and demand would have to find a new balance which could take time – especially given that this involves many different actors, from refiners, to bunker suppliers, to ships and the shipping industry. 

"It is all going to be about market dynamics - but supply and demand will get in balance. It will not be an easy transition, but we will get there," said Eddy van Bouwel, Chair, marine fuels committee, IPIECA. 

Speakers touched on the challenges new blends of fuel oil might bring, including potential quality issues providing challenges, in particular to the ship's engineers, and the need for preparedness was reiterated, including crew training and reviewing clauses in charter parties.

Simon Bennett, Deputy Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said that the shipowner organisation was confident that IMO 2020 will be a success. "However, the huge enormity of such a regulatory game changer has never been attempted before and needs to be understood by all stakeholders."

A representative from the International Standardization Organization (ISO) outlined the recently-issued standard: ISO/PAS 23263:2019, which  addresses quality considerations that apply to marine fuels in view of the implementation of the sulphur 2020 limit and the range of marine fuels that will be placed on the market in response.

Other speakers explained how scrubbers (which will be installed on around 4,000 ships) and - to a lesser extent – LNG, are being used to meet the sulphur 2020 limit as well as the potential to reduce other emissions from ships.

Summing up the first day, IMO's Hiroyuki Yamada, Director of Marine Environment Division, reiterated the importance of cooperation among all stakeholders and encouraged Member Governments, shipping, refinery, fuel oil supply and relevant industries, as well as charterers, to finalize their preparations for IMO 2020. IMO will make every effort to support the consistent implementation of IMO 2020 on Sulphur limit.

Role of alternative fuels in the decarbonization of international shipping

Day two of the symposium focused on the role of alternative fuels in the decarbonization of international shipping. 

Ammonia and hydrogen are promising potential fuels of the future in a decarbonized shipping industry, which has to switch to alternative, zero carbon fuels in order to meet the targets set out in the initial IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships, the IMO symposium heard on Friday (18 October).

Setting the scene, IMO's Edmund Hughes said the initial GHG strategy, adopted in 2018, had sent a clear signal that shipping will need to adapt. "We have to change to address global climate change," he said. "We have to find new technologies and new fuels if we are to achieve at least 50% reduction in annual GHG emissions from international shipping by 2050." For individual ships, the targets set mean an 85% reduction in CO2 emissions per ship. Operational and technical measures can contribute, including port time optimization and technologies which can be used on existing ships, with examples including air lubrication and wind propulsion to improve operational energy efficiency.

"The long-term future is a hydrogen-based fuel of some sort," said Dr. Tristan Smith, Reader, UCL Energy Institute. The potential for hydrogen- and ammonia-based fuels to take over from fossil fuels for ship engines by 2050 was echoed by Mr. Tore Longva, Principal Consultant, DNV GL; and Ms. Alexandra Ebbinghaus, Maritime Strategic Project Lead, Shell Trading and Chair, GloMEEP-Global Industry Alliance. Key issues for these new fuels include speed of uptake and scaling of production.

Maalaysia's Kanagalingam T. Selkvarasah, Maritime Attache, outlined Malaysia's commitment to developing hydrogen as a fuel for marine use and outlined the infrastructure and projects already in development.  Hydrogen was already being successfully deployed in numerous small vessels and had the potential to be scaled up, said Madadh Maclaine, of the Zero Emission Ship Technology Association.   

Speakers agreed that enabling policies, collaboration and research and development would be needed to decide how shipping would move forward with decarbonization - with a commitment to ensuring that no one was left behind, through collaboration and technical cooperation. "The shipping industry stands ready to move," Johannah Christensen, Managing Director & Head of Projects & Programmes, Global Maritime Forum (GMF) - Getting to Zero Coalition, adding that the shipping sector benefited from having a global regulator to define and shape policy, the IMO.  

Closing the Symposium, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim reflected on the topics of the symposium, which offered a chance for multiple stakeholders to share views on the sulphur 2020 limit which comes into effect form 1 January 2020, and the longer-term need to address climate change and decarbonize shipping.

"The topics of the last two days have a common element, which is essential to sustainable future shipping - and that is fuels," Mr. Lim said. "The development and provision of viable alternative fuels cannot be solved by the shipping industry alone - but needs support from the wider maritime industry, such as oil industries, charterers and ports." 


IMO symposium page including presentation downloads: click here.  

Photos: click here..

IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim opening speech

Sulphur 2020 infographic outlining benefits of sulphur 2020 and listing IMO instruments to support consistent implementation: click here.

IMO sulphur 2020 page: click here