IMO delegates keen to maintain sulphur cap momentum

IMO PPR Feb 2018.jpg. Caption: PPR5 chair Sveinung Oftedal (right) and IMO secretary-general Kitack Lim at the opening of the meeting. Credit: IMO

Delegates at the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) subcommittee meeting have said any delay to the implementation of the so-called sulphur cap due on 1 January 2020 is very unlikely.

Moves by a number of delegations, including oil-producing and developing countries, have sought to reopen the debate about implementation, but there is little appetite from the majority of delegations at IMO, which believe this debate has been concluded and that the best thing is for the industry to move on.

PPR5 is essentially the curtain-raiser to the main event in April when the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) will meet to make decisions on a number of significant issues, including market-based measures for curbing carbon emissions. However, the major focus for PPR5 has been the sulphur cap, with the global regulation for low-sulphur fuels implemented in less than two years.

In his opening address, general secretary Kitack Lim said, “Undoubtedly, the most important item on your agenda this week is the consistent implementation of the 0.50% m/m global limit of the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil, which will come into effect from 1 January 2020. There is no turning back. The lower global sulphur limit will have a significant beneficial impact on the environment and on human health, particularly that of people living in port cities and coastal communities.”

Lim, however, got to the nub of the matter, saying, “Consistent implementation to all ships will ensure a level playing field is maintained.” This was a key element of the PPR discussions and the number of delegations ready to speak on the issue showed the strength of feeling and that owner representative bodies were keen that implementation would be enforced globally from the outset.

Even so, some delegations warned that there could be safety issues involved with the switch to low-sulphur fuel oil (LSFO) with a sulphur content not higher than 0.5%. These were dismissed by other delegates as negligible risks.

Japan laid out a roadmap for the shift to low-sulphur fuel that was generally well received. It includes the establishment of a correspondence group at the current meeting, with an intersessional meeting later this year to consider the progress made by the correspondence group so that guidelines can be finalised at PPR6 early next year. These will then be approved and adopted at MEPC in late 2019, just before the key implementation date.

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