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1.6.2 The Sulphur Directive

In addition to GHG, IMO regulates the emission of air pollutants from ship exhausts, including NOx and SOx emissions. These regulations are contained in the MARPOL Annex VI protocol which, in addition, designates specific geographic areas as Emission Control Areas (ECAs), where more stringent requirements apply. An ECA can be designated for NOx and PM, or SOx, or all three types of emissions from ships (the term SECA is used for a SOx ECA). The existing ECAs appear in Fig. 1.5, while their entry into force date is shown in Table 1.3.

The latest revision of MARPOL Annex VI was adopted in October 2008. Its basic provisions that relate to SOx emissions include:

• a reduction in the global limit of sulphur content in fuel to 3.5 % by mass (from

4.5 %) effective from 1 January 2012; then to 0.5 %, effective from 1 January 2020 subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018 (it can be postponed to 1 January 2025 if the review reveals that not enough fuel with a sulphur content of 0.5 % is available for global shipping in 2020),

Fig. 1.5 The emission control areas. Source: CIW (2014)

Table 1.3 The adoption, entry into force and effective dates of ECAs Adoption, entry into force and date of taking effect of special areas

• a reduction in sulphur limits for fuels in SECAs to 1 %, beginning on 1 July 2010 (from 1.5 %); being further reduced to 0.1 %, effective from 1 January 2015,

• the possibility of using suitable abatement equipment as an alternative to fuel switching requirements on the basis that equivalent SOx emissions are achieved on a continuous basis.

The timing of the above sulphur content limits are represented graphically in Fig. 1.6.

At European level, these provisions were not transposed into European law until November 2012, when Directive 2012/33/EU was adopted (EP&C, 2012b).[1] The Directive aligns to the IMO regulations and brings the 0.5 % limit into force on 1 January 2020 for all EU sea territory, even if on global scale this limit gets postponed to 2025. Furthermore, the Commission's proposal for passenger ships to

Fig. 1.6 Revised MARPOL Annex VI—fuel sulphur limits. Source: Entec (2010)

follow the SECA limits of 0.1 % also outside the SECA area from 2020 onwards was not approved, and the current 1.5 % limit will be lowered to 0.5 % in 2020 as for all shipping within the EU.

The 0.1 % limit, effective as of 1 January 2015 within SECAs, can only be achieved by fitting expensive exhaust scrubbers, consuming LNG, or burning Marine Gas Oil, which is currently around $300 per tonne more expensive that Heavy Fuel Oil 1.0 %S. This is expected to have adverse effects on shipping and ports in SECAs, as well as the industries that depend on their services (refer to Chap. 10 for a more detailed discussion on this issue). However, the focus of the shipping industry has now moved to concerns about the effective enforcement of these rules, which is far from trivial.

  • [1] The previous IMO limits were applied by Directive 2005/33/EC which, in addition, imposed a 1.5 % sulphur limit for fuels used by passenger vessels on regular services between EU ports from 11 August 2006, and a 0.1 % sulphur limit on fuel used by inland waterway vessels and by seagoing ships at berth in EU ports, from 1 January 2010
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