06.04.2008 - IMO gets tough

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has backed stringent measures to cut emissions from ships by agreeing the use of cleaner bunker fuels.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), meeting in London last week, has approved amendments to the Marpol Annex VI regulations chopping sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions to 3.5% from 4.5% globally from 2012, then progressively to 0.5% from 2020, meaning the end of heavy fuel oils.

There is a proviso for the 2020 limit however. A feasibility study must back the change in 2018. If not, it will be pushed back to 2025.

Delegates have in effect plumped for the toughest of three options on the table, but have watered down the dates of implementation, a nod to the lack of supply of low-sulphur distillates from refineries at present.

The sub-committee on bulk liquids and gases (BLG) had proposed cutting back to 1% from 2012 and 0.5% (5,000 ppm) from 2015.

Some observers had doubted whether the IMO would go for a global solution, but it has rejected leaving worldwide levels unchanged and focusing instead on regional measures.

The limits applicable in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) are being cut to 1% on 1 March 2010, from 1.5%, and then to 0.10% from 2015.

In the current Annex VI, there are two SECAs: the Baltic Sea and the North Sea area, which also includes the English Channel.

Reductions in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ship engines were also agreed, with the most stringent controls on so-called Tier III engines - those installed on ships built from 2016 and operating in emission control creas.

IMO secretary-general Efthimios Mitropoulos hailed the agreement. "The fact that representatives of some 100 governments were able to reach decisions by consensus on complicated issues of great importance to the environment not only bears testimony to the responsible manner with which the members address environmental matters nowadays but also to the great results that can be achieved when states, with the same concerns and determination to produce meaningful solutions to global problems, work together under the auspices of IMO.

“I am confident that, once adopted as amendments to Marpol Annex VI in the coming October, the new measures will prove extremely beneficial to the environment. It will certainly be one of IMO's finest hours when this happens six months from now."

Annex VI (Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) entered into force in May 2005 and has so far been ratified by 49 countries, representing approximately 74.77% of the gross tonnage of the world's fleet.

Gary Dixon, Tradewinds

Back to news list

go to publications

fullscreen view
join our position mailing