Owners split on sulphur cap extension

Maersk says its sulphur cap deadline is set in stone. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch
Maersk says its sulphur cap deadline is set in stone. Credit: Dietmar Hasenpusch

A last-ditch attempt to delay the implementation of the global sulphur cap is expected to be made at this week’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 73 at the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

A move by a number of shipowners’ organisations through their representative flag states will argue that safety issues and staff training concerns, as well as low-sulphur fuel availability, mean that it would make sense to have a phased introduction of the regulation or a ‘rest period’ with minimal sanctions after the sulphur cap is introduced in January 2020. However, larger vessel operators such as Maersk Line, which have invested heavily to ensure that they have sufficient low-sulphur fuel available to meet the new regulation, are said to be opposed to the move.

Some IMO sources believe that smaller owners are concerned with safety issues, but that they are overstating the dangers in order to extend the period that operators will be able to use the lower-cost heavy fuel oil.

Those same sources believe that major shipowners, including Maersk Line, have already invested heavily with a view to meeting the 2020 regulation and would be unwilling to support any further delay in implementing the sulphur cap.

“The IMO has confirmed on several occasions that the 2020 deadline is set in stone. We stand firm on our commitment to comply with the 2020 sulphur cap and are, like many others, executing on plans and investments to make sure we are ready for 1 January 2020,” Simon Bergulf, director of regulatory affairs at Maersk, told IHS Markit.

“We respect the view that an initial experience-building phase to collect data should be established after the new regulation comes into force. However, this remains only one proposal among many to be discussed, including any legal implications on both national and international levels. For Maersk, strong and efficient enforcement remains the number-one priority. We expect the IMO member states to maintain support for the carriage ban at the MEPC 73 Summit meeting.”

Meanwhile, discussions at MEPC 73 are expected to cover the short-term measures that it will implement for the decarbonisation of shipping, including modifications to the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), the Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plans (SEEMP), speed optimisation, and also measures to tackle port congestion.