The IMO has recently published a Frequently Asked Questions document related to the 2020 global sulphur limit.
In 2012, for ships operating outside Emission Control Areas (ECAs), the MARPOL Annex VI global cap on marine fuel sulphur content was reduced from 4.50% to 3.50%, with a further reduction to 0.50% being scheduled for 2020.
The current sulphur content limit of 0.10% set for marine fuel oil on vessels operating in ECAs will not change in 2020. An original limit of 1.00% was established on 1 July 2010, which was then lowered to 0.10% on 1 January 2015.
The ECAs established under MARPOL Annex VI for SOx are: the Baltic Sea area; the North Sea area; the North American area (covering designated coastal areas off the United States and Canada); and the United States Caribbean Sea area (waters around Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands).
What should owners and operators do now?
Shipowners and operators will need to ensure their vessels are able to run on compliant fuel, or consider the installation of approved equivalent methods – such as exhaust gas cleaning systems (‘scrubbers’) – to remove sulphur from engine emissions.