High Sulfur Fuel Oil (HSFO) is amongst the cheapest, most polluting, and most used fuel to power cargo ships. When HSFO combusts, the sulfur within it reacts with oxygen to form sulfur oxides (SOx). SOx emissions are harmful to human health, causing respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is the international agency setting global standards for shipping safety, security, and environmental performance, has mandated that on January 1, 2020, the limit for sulfur in fuel oil on ships operating outside Emission Control Areas (ECAs) will be significantly reduced. This regulation is known as IMO 2020 and it is projected to prevent 150,000 annual premature deaths around the globe.
One of my responsibilities at BSR has been to conduct research on IMO 2020, and write a report on how it will impact Clean Cargo members’ shipping and supply chain activities. The report aims to inform the shippers (who own cargo and procure carriers to move their goods) and forwarders (who organize shipments between Carriers and Shippers to provide logistics services to ensure goods arrive at the final point of distribution) how they should navigate the changing waters of international shipping, and what questions they should ask carriers (who own vessels and move goods ).
This report explores how the international maritime shipping industry is likely to comply with IMO 2020 and how they will transition. It first explains the scientific process of SOx emissions, the creation of HSFO and its prevalence in the shipping industry, why the IMO is limiting ships’ ability to emit SOx. The paper then evaluates the three options carriers have to adapt to IMO 2020: Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oils (VLSFOs), Scrubbers, or alternative means of compliance such as Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). It then analyzes the engineering, scientific, and regulatory challenges in each of these options. Next, the paper explores the potential costs of the transition as a whole, analyzes the challenges of enforcing IMO 2020. This paper concludes with why VLSFOs will be the most used path to compliance and will provide suggestions as to how the public and other members of the ocean shipping value chain can positively contribute to this transition to ensure their supply chain is complying with IMO 2020.
I would be more than happy to discuss this topic at further length so please feel free to reach out!