The latest of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations, known as IMO 2020, requires reducing sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions from ocean vessels to less than 0.50% by mass. This bold initiative, which entered into force on January 1, will help reduce the environmental impact of the international shipping industry. FreightWaves shares through MarketWatch, the analysis of the impact and benefits of this regulation for maritime transport interest groups and the general population.
These IMO 2020 regulations require the lowest worldwide requirements for sulfur oxide emissions to date. Outside of the designated emission control areas (ECAS), this is an 85% reduction from the existing limit of 3.50%.
Four established emission control areas already have stricter regulations: the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, North America and the Caribbean Sea of the United States. Effective since 2015, within the control areas, the sulfur oxide emission limit is 0.10%. This did not change with the IMO 2020 regulations.
It is important to understand why these new regulations were enacted and how IMO 2020 will have an impact on the global shipping market.
Maritime transport, an efficient and cost-effective means of transporting international goods, represents more than 80% of world trade. That is why it is important to establish sustainable maritime transport practices for the future, especially for populations living near ports and coasts.
The main environmental benefits of reducing sulfur emissions from marine fuel to less than 0.50% include better air quality, a lower risk of respiratory health and a reduction in acid rain and acidified water.
According to an IMO study on air pollution and energy efficiency, more than 570,000 premature deaths will be avoided between 2020 and 2025 by introducing these low sulfur oxide emission guidelines. Very low sulfur fuel (VLSFO) creates less soot air, which reduces airborne particles, resulting in less respiratory health problems.
Reducing sulfur emissions by using low sulfur fuels on transport ships will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050 compared to the 2008 requirements. That is a reduction of 8.5 million metric tons per year.
Instead of using heavy bunker or HFO, sea carriers have several alternatives to comply with IMO 2020 regulations. These options revolve around fuel options or sulfur mitigation technology. Shippers must weigh upgrade costs, as well as current fuel costs and equipment failure rates to meet new marine sector emission standards.
The most efficient solution for sea carriers that seek to comply with the IMO 2020 compliance requirements is to choose a low sulfur fuel, which requires costly investments in ship upgrades. The initial quality of very low sulfur fuel is likely to vary significantly according to local refinery configurations, since current ISO specifications for marine petroleum fuels do not take into account mixed fuels. Carriers must be attentive to incompatibility problems. It is imperative to keep different batches of fuels separated to avoid unwanted reactions.
A popular option for many sea carriers will be to limit sulfur oxide emissions through exhaust cleaning systems, commonly known as “scrubbers.” These devices remove sulfur oxides from a ship’s engine and boiler exhaust, which allows an existing vessel to continue using fuel with a higher level of sulfur. But they will require an initial investment to install a debugger.
In addition, not all flag states have approved scrubbers due to environmental concerns about the discharge of the exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS). In fact, certain flag states, China and Singapore, for example, have already banned the discharge of exhaust cleaning scrubbers in territorial waters. Carriers who choose scrubbers must follow all flag state regulations.
Carriers can take advantage of several alternative fuel options, most of which are not derived from oil. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a credible option, since it is almost free of sulfur and produces lower levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particles (PM) to reduce pollution