IMO issues additional guidance on 2020 sulfur cap

The following is text of a news release from the International Maritime Organization (IMO):

(LONDON) — The International Maritime Organization has approved and adopted a comprehensive set of guidance and guidelines to support the consistent implementation of the lower 0.5 percent limit on sulfur in ships’ fuel oil, which will enter into effect from Jan. 1, 2020. Related draft MARPOL amendments were also approved.

The 2020 rule will bring in considerable benefits for the environment and human health. The stricter limit will be applicable globally under IMO’s MARPOL treaty. (In designated Emission Control Areas (ECAs), the sulfur limit will remain at 0.1 percent.) 

The Jan. 1, 2020 implementation date was adopted in 2008 and confirmed in 2016. IMO has been working with member states and the industry to support implementation of the new limit, including the preparation of amendments to MARPOL Annex VI and development of guidance and guidelines. Enforcement, compliance with and monitoring of the 2020 sulfur limit is the remit and responsibility of states party to MARPOL Annex VI. Most ships are expected to utilize new blends of fuel oil which will be produced to meet the 0.5 percent limit on sulphur in fuel oil or compliant marine gas/diesel oil. 

Guidance on 2020 sulfur limit

The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), meeting for its 74th session (May 13-17):

• Adopted 2019 guidelines for consistent implementation of the 0.5 percent sulfur limit under MARPOL Annex VI, with sections on the 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 samples of fuel oil used on board; a standard reporting format for fuel oil non-availability (fuel oil non-availability report, or FONAR); and possible safety implications relating to fuel oils meeting the 0.5 percent sulfur limit.
• Adopted 2019 guidelines for port state control under MARPOL Annex VI Chapter 3, providing updated enforcement guidance for provisions including regulation 13 “nitrogen oxides” and regulation 14 “sulfur oxides and particulate matter."
• Approved guidance on indication of ongoing compliance in the case of the failure of a single monitoring instrument, and recommended actions to take if the exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) fails to meet the provision of the guidelines.
• Approved guidance for port state control on contingency measures for addressing non-compliant fuel oil. The guidance covers possible actions to be taken, following discussions between ship, flag state and port state, when a ship is found to have on board non-compliant fuel oil either as a consequence of compliant fuel oil being not available when the ship bunkered fuel oil, or the ship identifying through post-bunkering testing that the fuel oil on board is non-compliant.
• Approved the 2019 guidelines for onboard sampling for the verification of the sulfur content of the fuel oil used on board ships.
• Approved an MSC-MEPC circular on delivery of compliant fuel oil by suppliers, subject to approval by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 101) in June. The draft circular says that member states should urge fuel oil suppliers to take into account, as relevant: MEPC.1/Circ.875 guidance on best practice for fuel oil purchasers/users for assuring the quality of fuel oil used on board ships; and MEPC.1/Circ.875/Add.1 guidance on best practice for fuel oil suppliers for assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered to ships.
• Approved guidance for best practice for member state/coastal states. This includes best practices intended to assist member states in carrying out their responsibilities under MARPOL Annex VI, to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of statutory requirements of that annex. The guidance says that member states/coastal states should consider actions deemed appropriate, under domestic legal arrangements, with respect to promoting the availability of compliant fuel oils, consistent with regulation 18.1 of MARPOL Annex VI; and member states or other relevant authorities desiring to do so may decide to establish or promote a licensing scheme for bunker suppliers.

The MEPC 73 in October 2018 had already approved guidance on the development of a ship implementation plan for the consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI (MEPC.1/Circ. 878).  

Carriage ban 

A related MARPOL Annex VI amendment to prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil used by ships, which was adopted last year, is expected to enter into force on March 1, 2020.

Related MARPOL Annex VI amendments approved for future adoption

To support consistent implementation of regulation 14 of MARPOL Annex VI, MEPC approved draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to regulations 1, 2, 14 and 18, appendix I and appendix VI of MARPOL Annex VI, with a view to adoption at MEPC 75, with an expected entry force date of September 2021. The MEPC also approved a circular to encourage early application of the approved amendments to the verification procedures for a MARPOL Annex VI fuel oil sample.

The draft amendments cover:

• Draft amendments to Regulation 2 definitions, to include new definitions for “Sulfur content of fuel oil” – meaning the concentration of sulfur in any fuel oil, measured in percent m/m as tested in accordance with standard acceptable to the organization; “low-flashpoint fuel," to mean gaseous or liquid fuel having a flashpoint lower than otherwise permitted under paragraph 2.1.1 of SOLAS regulation II-2/4; “MARPOL delivered sample," to mean the sample of fuel oil delivered in accordance with regulation 18.8.1 of MARPOL Annex VI; “In-use sample," to mean the sample of fuel oil in use on a ship; and “on board sample," to mean the sample of fuel oil intended to be used or carried for use on board that ship.
• Fuel oil sampling and testing – Draft amendments to Regulation 14 sulfur oxides (SOX) and particulate matter, to add new paragraphs related to in-use and onboard fuel oil sampling and testing, to add new paragraphs to require one or more sampling points to be fitted or designated for the purpose of taking representative samples of the fuel oil being used or carried for use on board the ship. The representative samples of the fuel oil being used on board are to be taken in order to verify the fuel oil complies with the regulation. 
• Appendix I amendments to the International Air Pollution Prevention (IAPP) certificate – Draft consequential amendments to update the IAPP certificate to add a reference to sampling points and also to note where there is an exemption to the provision for low-flashpoint fuel.
• Appendix VI fuel verification procedure for MARPOL Annex VI fuel oil sample – Draft consequential amendments to verification procedures, to cover verification of the representative samples of in-use fuel oil and onboard fuel oil.  

Reporting on fuel oil quality and availability 

The MEPC discussed how to enhance the reporting of data, as required by MARPOL Annex VI regulation 18 on fuel oil quality and availability. The MEPC approved a draft MEPC circular on reporting of data related to fuel oil availability and safety in GISIS to promote greater understanding of the 0.5 percent m/m sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI. 

The MEPC instructed the IMO secretariat to review the current MARPOL Annex VI module in IMO's global shipping information system GISIS (including Regulation 18.1: fuel oil availability; Regulation 18.2.5: evidence of non-availability of compliant fuel oil; Regulation 18.9.6: failure of fuel oil suppliers to meet the requirements specified in regulation 14 or 18 of Annex VI.

The MEPC instructed the secretariat to update the existing tabs in GISIS for better functionality, including: updating the types of fuels and sulfur contents that are listed; allowing for multiple ports to be entered in a single entry; allowing searching by port or compliant fuel (adding a port list could assist with this); aligning with the fuel oil non-availability reports (FONAR); adding check-boxes on fuel oil quality; and improving the selection of regulations.
The MEPC established a Correspondence Group, to be coordinated by the secretariat, to report back to MEPC 75, to investigate the reporting of additional items on GISIS; and further usability improvements, if feasible and as appropriate. 

The secretariat was also instructed to report to MEPC 75 a preliminary overview of data on fuel oil quality and availability currently available in GISIS as well as an overview of the current use of GISIS with reference to obligations under regulation 14 and 18.

The committee invited the secretariat to advise MSC 101 on the progress made on the new GISIS module for fuel oil safety matters.

Exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS)

Some ships use exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) (“scrubbers”), accepted by their flag states as an alternative equivalent means to meet the sulfur limit requirement.  

The Subcommittee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) is undertaking a review of the 2015 Guidelines on Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS). The guidelines include, among other things, washwater discharge standards.

The MEPC approved a new output on "Evaluation and harmonization of rules and guidance on the discharge of liquid effluents from EGCS into waters, including conditions and areas," in the 2020-2021 biennial agenda of the PPR sucommittee and the provisional agenda for PPR 7 (meeting in February 2020), with a target completion year of 2021. PPR 7 is expected to further review the documents that were submitted to MEPC 74 in relation to the newly approved output, with a view to refining the title and scope of the output and will report the outcome of its consideration to MEPC. 

The MEPC also instructed the secretariat to liaise with the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), an advisory body that advises the United Nations (U.N.) system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection. 

The MEPC requested that, subject to sufficient external funding being provided by member states and other stakeholders, a GESAMP task team be established to assess the available evidence relating to the environmental impact of discharges of exhaust gas cleaning system effluent, with a view to reporting its findings to PPR 7. 

IMO sulfur monitoring program

The MEPC noted information provided by the secretariat on the outcome of the monitoring of the worldwide average sulfur content of marine fuel oils supplied for use onboard ships for 2018, based on three sampling and testing service providers. The worldwide average sulfur content (i.e. three-year rolling average) of residual fuel oil was 2.59 percent, and for distillate fuel oil it was 0.08 percent. 

The MEPC approved, in principle, draft amendments to the 2010 guidelines, as amended for monitoring the worldwide average sulfur content of fuel oils supplied for use onboard ships. The draft amendments update the IMO sulfur monitoring program to take into account the entry into effect of the 0.5 percent sulfur limit from Jan. 1, 2020 and the potential types of fuel oils which will be used to comply with this limit and will be required.   
Roundtable meeting and 2020 seminar 

The IMO secretariat plans to hold a further roundtable meeting with representatives from across stakeholders in June 2019 to review progress and share information.  

Additionally, to provide an opportunity for wider stakeholder engagement, IMO plans to hold an “IMO 2020” seminar in autumn, as by then there should be a clearer understanding of the availability of compliant fuel oil and some experience of implementation that can be shared. Further details for this seminar will be issued in due course.

By Professional Mariner Staff