IMO rejects US-backed proposal for phasing in of sulphur cap

The International Maritime Organization, meeting in London, UK this week, has rejected a proposal supported by the US and shipping groups that would have seen a phased start of the 0.5% sulphur cap to be introduced at the start of 2020.

Marine Environment Protection Committee 73 (MEPC 73), rejected a proposal for an “experience-building phase”, observing that the proposal was vague and needed further defining. The committee invited separate proposals to enhance existing regulations. This left it unclear whether the experience-building proposal was killed outright or merely kicked into the long grass.

The move came as a surprise to some observers, who had noted that the proposal had appeared to be gaining momentum as the MEPC meeting progressed. After the first two days of the five-day meeting, only six items on the agenda had been completed and the sulphur cap emission implementation discussion ran over into Thursday.

MEPC 73 is meant to develop some of the details of rules to come into place on January 1st 2020, two years after adopting ambitions sulphur-cap rules that reduced the maximum level to one-seventh the previous maximum, although lower maximums were already in place in parts of the world.

Earlier this week MEPC 73 also rejected a proposal to delay a ban on ships’ carriage of non-compliant fuels.

BIMCO, Intertanko and Intercargo, along with flag states the Bahamas, Liberia, Marshall Islands and Panama,  made a submission to the IMO in late August requesting an experience-building phase. A US official said earlier this week that the Trump administration supported the proposal.

BIMCO said that the proposal was not a delaying tactic. It was instead intended to get clearer guidance for what would happen when vessels either inadvertently failed to comply or were unable to purchase the correct fuels. However, the submission to the IMO failed to set a deadline for when any “experience-building phase” would end.