Even Carrying High Sulphur Bunker is Illegal from March 2020


  • Bunkers exceeding 0.50% sulphur content will be illegal from March 1, 2020.
  • This also includes the fuel oil “carried for use”.
  • It applies to bunker fuel oils only not the fuel carried as cargo.
  • Two proposals were made in this regard, in IMO’s february meeting.

With an upcoming amendment of the MARPOL Annex VI, ships carrying high sulphur content are in for a crude shock. The amendment which will come into effect from 1 March, 2020 makes it illegal to carry sulphur content above 0.50%. From 2020, all ships have to comply with this new regulation which was first put forward in two near-identical proposals to an International Maritime Committee (IMO) meeting that was held in IMO’s London HQ from 5-9 February.

The Proposed Amendments

The carriage ban proposal, while not universally welcomed, received majority support at the 5th session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 5) and was made a high priority work item.

The carriage ban will be achieved by adding a few words to MARPOL Annex VI so that it is not only the sulphur content of “any fuel oil used” on board ships, but also fuel oil “carried for use” that “shall not exceed” the 0.50% sulphur limit.

There was long debate about whether the regulatory text would make it sufficiently clear that the carriage ban applies only to oil fuel oil carried as bunkers in a ship’s fuel tanks, and that it does not apply to bunkers carried as cargo.

Further discussions were held on matters related to exemptions given to ships which have approved abatement technology with reference to the non-availability clause in Regulation 18.2 of MARPOL Annex VI, but many of members opposed the idea and hence it was discarded.

The Necessity For The New Regulation

One of the two carriage ban proposals was submitted to PPR 5 by the Cook Island and Norway, who specifically asked for an accurate text for the regulatory amendment to be agreed at PPR 5 and then sent to the 72nd session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 72) in April as an urgent item.

As IBIA has been informing the industry at forums and in articles since September last year, if the carriage ban is approved at MEPC 72 and then formally adopted at MEPC 73 in October 2018, it could enter into force as soon as March 1, 2020, taking into account normal IMO procedures between a regulatory change being agreed, adopted and subsequently enter into force.

The idea behind the carriage ban is that it will make enforcement of the 0.50% sulphur limit more effective and reduce the likelihood of non-compliance because it will make it easier for port State authorities to detect and sanction ships. The regulatory amendment means they only need to prove carriage of non-compliant bunkers, whereas the current regulatory text means they would have to prove that it has been used in their jurisdiction to be able to sanction the ship.

Hence, this new amendment make things clear for all the involved parties.

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Source: IBIA