Air QualityEnvironment & ClimateFossil Fuels

How have the IMO & marine industries coped with the impact of Covid19 & the new Sulphur emissions limits?

By July 1, 2020 No Comments

With the world’s spotlight having been focused on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on land, how have the IMO & marine industries coped with the impact of Covid19 & the new Sulphur emissions limits?

On Thursday 25th June the world celebrated the international Day of the Seafarer.

With the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) having encouraged member states to recognise Seafarers as key workers, they have enabled millions of seafarers to be safely repatriated, have access to ports & change crews under Covid19 safe protocols. With up to 1.6 million people working on 50,000 tankers at sea around the world, some crews due to the Covid19 pandemic have been at sea for over nine months.

Travel restrictions imposed by Governments around the world have made it difficult for international seafarers to not only return home during the global pandemic but have also posed challenges when coming into port.

With the IMO encouraging member states to designate seafarers are key-workers, this has begun to see changes for the seafarers. Repatriation, docking & crew changes have begun to be made possible with Covid19 safety protocols in place to support seafarers.

However, even before the Covid19 pandemic, the marine & maritime industries were having to make ready for some considerable changes relating to the emissions produced by the traditional tankers & seafaring vessels.

The IMO (International Maritime Organisation) specialising in the safety, security & efficiency of shipping & the prevention of pollution from ships, have been collaborating with the GIA (Global Industry Alliance) & in doing so have created GloMEEP (Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnerships). The GloMEEP project has been implemented to ‘support the uptake & implementation of energy efficiency measures for shipping, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions’ (1)

GloMEEP rolled out their project to 10 pilot countries including Argentina, China, Georgia, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, Morocco, Panama, Philippines & South Africa. The project covers:

  1. Legal, policy and institutional reforms
  2. Awareness raising and capacity-building activities
  3. Establishment of public-private partnerships to support low carbon shipping (2)

The IMO agreed to an ‘initial strategy’ in April 2018, to reduce the global shipping emissions by 50% by 2050. The GIA Task Force meetings having already tackled these issues in the past, came together for the 4th Task Force meeting on Tuesday 27th November.

The 3rd GIA Task Force meeting which was held at Ricardo UK’s headquarters in Shoreham explored the ‘validation of performance of Energy Efficiency Technologies, barriers to the uptake of Just-In-Time Operation of ships & resulting emission & fuel saving opportunities.’(2)

Simon Brewster – CEO Dolphin N2 & a GIA signatory, attended the GIA 4th Task Force on Tuesday 27th November at the IMO Headquarters in London. The purpose of the 4th Task Force meeting was to ‘discuss how the GIA can support IMO in the development of measures that can increase the uptake of low carbon fuels (with a view to feeding this into IMO’s work on the Initial GHG Strategy). ‘(3)

The 15 members of the GIA which represent leading shipowners/operators, classification societies, engine/technology builders & suppliers, data providers, oil companies & ports, were seeking to find ways to implement the GloMEEP strategies 3 core points. The 4th Task force meeting focused on the adoption of low carbon fuels in the shipping sectors & herewith is the reason why:

‘The main type of “bunker” oil for ships is heavy fuel oil, derived as a residue from crude oil distillation. Crude oil contains sulphur which, following combustion in the engine, ends up in ship emissions. Sulphur oxides (SOx) are known to be harmful to human health, causing respiratory symptoms and lung disease. In the atmosphere, SOx can lead to acid rain, which can harm crops, forests and aquatic species, and contributes to the acidification of the oceans. Limiting SOemissions from ships will improve air quality and protects the environment.’ (4)

The IMO have since then implemented their Sulphur limits:

For ships operating outside designated Emission Control Areas, IMO has set a limit for sulphur in fuel oil used on board ships of 0.50% m/m (mass by mass) from 1 January  2020. This will significantly reduce the amount of sulphur oxide emanating from ships and should have major health and environmental benefits for the world, particularly for populations living close to ports and coasts.  (5)

The Day of the Seafarer has allowed the spotlight to shift momentarily to the oceans & consider the humanitarian efforts continuing at sea, while the rest of the world battles the Covid19 pandemic on land.

Written by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2