The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has confirmed that new a global cap on the sulphur content in shipping fuel will be introduced on 1 January 2020. Since 1 January 2012, the global limit has been 3.5% mass/mass (m/m) which will decrease to 0.5% m/m when the new cap takes effect. The cap will apply to all fuel used in main and auxiliary engines as well as boilers.
The shipping industry is the biggest emitter of sulphur oxides (SOx). The new cap is intended to reduce the harmful impact that shipping has on the environment and human health from emissions and is expected to reduce relevant emissions by around 85%.
The implementation of the new cap is the result of the revised Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from ships (MARPOL) which was adopted in 2008. Annex VI envisages a progressive reduction in global emissions of SOx and nitrous oxides (NOx). MARPOL also introduced designated SOx Emission Control Areas (ECAS) such as the Baltic Sea and the North Sea areas. Since 1 January 2015, sulphur limit for fuel oil in the ECAS has been 0.10% m/m. The new global cap will not affect the emission cap already in place in ECAS.