MARPOL Annex VI: Fuel Oil Sulphur

From 1st January 2015, the sulphur content in ships’ fuel must be below 0.1 % in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECA).

Background

International regulations for pollution from ships are contained in the IMO “International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships”, known as MARPOL 73/78. On 27 September 1997, the MARPOL Convention was amended by the “1997 Protocol” which includes Annex VI titled “Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships”. In particular, Annex VI regulates emission of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter. Annex VI entered into force on 19th May 2005 and in October 2008 the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) adopted a set of amendments to Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention.

The set of amendments to Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention introduces new standards for emission from ships of sulphur oxides (SOx), particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The most stringent changes relate to SOx emission.

Reduction of SOx and particulate matter emission is achieved by limiting the maximum sulphur content of the fuel oils used onboard.

Two sets of emission and fuel quality requirements are defined by Annex VI: (1) global requirements, and (2) more stringent requirements applicable to ships in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECA).

On the global level, the sulphur cap is reduced initially to 3.50% (from the current 4.50%), effective from 1st January 2012; then progressively to 0.50 %, effective from 1st January 2020 (or in 2025 at the latest), subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018.

For SECA, the requirements are – from 1st July 2010, the maximum sulphur limit is reduced to 1.00%, (from 1.50%), while from 1st January 2015, sulphur content in ships’ fuel must be below 0.1 %.

Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECA)

Currently, four regions are identified as Sulphur Emission Control Areas. NB: an Emission Control Area can be designated not only for SOx and particulate matter (PM) emission but also for NOx emission, or all three types of emissions from ships. These SECA are:

1. Baltic Sea area – as defined in Annex I of MARPOL (SOx only);

2. North Sea area – as defined in Annex V of MARPOL (SOx only);

3. North American area – as defined in Appendix VII of Annex VI of MARPOL (SOx, NOx and PM); and

4. United States Caribbean Sea area – as defined in Appendix VII of Annex VI of MARPOL (SOx, NOx and PM).

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