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New Shipping Fuel Regulation Comes Into Force


This year will see a drastic reduction in sulphur levels in the fuel used for global shipping.

The move is predicted to reduce air pollution levels, and could possibly help tackle the climate crisis too.

The rules brought in by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will mean that ships will now only be allowed to use fuels that have very low levels of sulphur within them. This move has taken over ten years of planning, with all shipping companies around the globe set to comply, or risk facing a penalty.

Secretary general of the IMO, Kitack Lim, said: “Member states, the shipping industry and fuel oil suppliers have been working for the past three years to prepare for this major change – I am confident that the benefits will soon be felt and that implementation will be smooth”.

“This [is a] hugely important change which will have significant positive benefits for human health and the environment,” Lim added.

Rather than for the purpose of tackling the current climate crisis, the new regulations seek only to lower air pollution and acid rain levels - both of which are caused by emissions of sulphur into the atmosphere.

However, the fuels containing large amounts of sulphur usually have higher carbon content too, so shipping companies becoming more efficient with their fuel usage may have a direct impact on the greenhouse gases the industry emits.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has said that the move to cleaner fuels will have a substantial impact on fuel costs within the sector. Fuel oil currently costs around $400 a tonne, but this could jump to as high as $600 a tonne according to the ICS. The higher cost of shipping may be passed on to the manufacturing and transport supply chains.

Wood Mackenzie, the energy analysts, say that costs of the new regulation may spread beyond the shipping industry. “Knock-on effects from the cap on sulphur emissions in marine bunker fuel could even wind up giving you a more expensive plane ticket in 2020,” the firm said.

Estimates from the IMO put the annual reduction in sulphur emissions from ships as a result of the regulation at 8.5m tonnes. This would be a 77% decrease, thanks to the new 0.5% limit of sulphur - down from the previous limit of 3.5% under the international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships.

The ICS has also been pushing for an overall levy of $2 per tonne on shipping fuels. The organisation says the money raised would fund the development of ‘zero-carbon’ ships. However, various green organisations have voiced scepticism about the initiative, arguing that more drastic action needs to be taken at present to cut carbon emissions, rather than kicking the can down the road.

Harry Pererra
Harry Pererra

Harry turns on his experience in journalism and programming to write about the latest news in the world of tech and the environemtn. When he isn’t writing for usave he is working towards his Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and prefers dogs to cats.

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