MEPC meeting set for key emissions decision

To combat the shipping industry’s sulphur pollution, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) is to meet in London from October 24th to 28th to decide whether to impose a global cap on Sulphur dioxide (SOx) emissions from 2020 or 2025. The decision would see sulphur emissions fall from the current maximum of 3.5% of fuel content to just 0.5%. The European Union is pressing strongly for 2020.

The shipping industry is by far the world’s biggest emitter of sulphur, with the sulphur dioxide (SOx) content in heavy fuel oil up to 3,500 times higher than the latest European diesel standards for vehicles.

The global shipping industry has warned that this could nearly double fuel costs, which could raise the prices of goods worldwide, However, shipping  is suffering its worst downturn in decades.

Meanwhile,  the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has said that the IMO should flesh out its commitment to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the shipping industry, building on the substantial CO2 reductions already achieved by shipping and the mandatory IMO CO2 reduction regime.

Shipping contributes just 2.2% of global CO2 emissions, but it is responsible for 13%  of SOx and 15% of nitrogen oxide emissions.

The European Union has already agreed that the 0.5% SOx requirement will apply in 2020 within 200nm of EU Member States’ coasts, regardless of what the IMO decides. China is also demanding cleaner fuels. Shenzhen, the world’s third-largest container port, introduced tighter controls this month, demanding that ships calling there do not use fuel with a sulphur content of more than 0.5%.

A change from bunker fuels to diesel of LNG would impose extra costs on the shipping sector. Using low-sulphur diesel instead of bunker fuel on a very large crude carrier (VLCC) class supertanker would boost fuel costs by around 44% from an average of $212 per tonne this year for heavy fuel oil to $379 per tonne for gas oil, according to shipping broker Clarkson.