IMO set to implement ban on carriage of high sulfur fuel

FEBRUARY 9, 2018 — IMO is to move forward with a prohibition on the carriage by ships of fuel oil that is not compliant with the 0.50% limit on sulfur content (outside designated emission control areas or ECAs, where the limit is 0.10%) that will come into effect on January 1, 2020.

IMO's Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR), this week agreed draft amendments to the MARPOL Convention on the prevention of pollution from ships (MARPOL Annex VI) to prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil.

An exception will be made for ships fitted with an approved "equivalent arrangement" to meet the sulfur limit – such as an exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) or scrubber – which are already permitted under regulation 4.1 of MARPOL Annex VI. For a ship without an approved equivalent arrangement the sulfur content of any fuel oil carried for use on board shall not exceed 0.50%.

Under regulation 3.2 of MARPOL Annex VI a ship undertaking trials for ship emission reduction and control technology research can be exempted by the Administration of a Party to Annex VI.

The proposed draft amendments have been submitted to the upcoming IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting in April (MEPC 72) for urgent consideration. Once approved by MEPC 72, the draft amendments could be adopted at MEPC 73 (October 2018) and could enter into force on March 1, 2020 (just two months after the 0.50% limit comes into effect).

To assist with consistent implementation, the PPR Sub-Committee agreed to develop a single set of Guidelines covering all relevant aspects and also agreed the outline of draft Guidelines for consistent implementation of regulation 14.1.3 of MARPOL Annex VI (the regulation on the 0.50% limit). The guidelines would cover:

  • Preparatory and transitional issues, relating to how ships can prepare for implementation, including relevant time schedules;
  • Impact on fuel and machinery systems resulting from new fuel blends or fuel types;
  • Verification issues and control mechanism and actions, including port state control and in-use fuel oil samples;
  • Fuel oil non-availability: guidance, information sharing and standard reporting format;
  • Safety implications relating to the option of blending fuels;
  • Other useful guidance/information to assist Member States and stakeholders, including guidance addressing quality assurance and integrity of the supply chain.


Among other actions, the PPR Sub-Committee also agreed draft 2018 Guidelines for the discharge of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) bleed-off water, for submission to MEPC 73, with a view to adoption.

One method for reducing NOX emissions to meet Tier III NOX emission levels when operating in a NOX Tier III emission control area is to use Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR). In this process, condensate of exhaust gas will be generated and discharged as bleed-off water, which should be handled differently depending on the fuel oil sulfur content. EGR may also be used as a Tier II compliance option.

The guidelines cover the discharge of EGR bleed-off water.

The Sub-Committee also agreed draft amendments to the NOX Technical Code 2008 relating to certification requirements for selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems.

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