90% of global trade travels by sea. Without international shipping, the modern world would not be able to exchange goods at the level it currently does. Over the past few months there has been increasing reports of the IMO stepping up their road map to control shipping emissions, as well as large scale investments from the EU towards the sustainable future of our maritime industries. We take a look at just some of the initiatives aiming to make waves in shipping’s sustainability


During the 70th session of Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) walked away with clear aims.

  • A Global Sulphur Cap by 2020
  • Road mapping to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Mandatory data collection system for Fuel Oil Consumption
  • New protected territories
  • New guidelines for Ballast Water Management
Violeta Bulc, European Commissioner for Transport said: “The maritime sector must play its part in tackling climate change. In the near future, ships will have to emit less sulphur and efforts to cut CO2 emissions have been stepped up. This will require immediate investment.”
1st January 2020 has been set as the deadline for companies to implement reduced sulphur content in fuel oil used on board. The global sulphur cap will stand at 0.50% m/m (mass/mass), cut from the 3.5% m/m global limit currently in place. Ships will be able to meet the new requirement by using low-sulphur compliant fuel oil, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) or methanol, or by fitting exhaust gas cleaning systems, commonly known as “scrubbers”, which strip the pollutants from the emissions before they are released into the atmosphere.


Under the roadmap, which will run from 2017 through to 2023, MEPC is tasked with sorting out the role of the international shipping sector in supporting the goals of the Paris Agreement (the Paris climate change deal aims to curb emissions to levels that would prevent the world temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius).

The plan so far includes a ‘to-do’ list containing tasks like further greenhouse gas (GHG) studies. Basically, MEPC are going to decide if ‘technical and operational measures’ are going to work well enough to meet IMO’s CO2 reduction commitments – so far they have reduced this by 10%.

Another measure taken has been the introduction of the data collection system (MARPOL Annex VI). This will require ships to record and report on their fuel oil consumption. The data will be collected and reported to the Flag State at the end of each year, when the ships will then receive a Statement of Compliance (as long as the ship passes). This will come into effect on the 1st of March 2018.

MEPC have also ruled in favour of making the North Sea and Baltic Sea Emissions Controlled Areas (ECA’s) for nitrous oxides (NOx). Starting January 2021 Marine Diesel Engines passing through the North Sea or Baltic Sea will have to comply with the Tier III NOx emission limit.

The IMO are doing their best to add areas of our seas to the list of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA). One of the new additions is the Jomard Entrance in Papua. It has joined the list of outstanding beauty and great environmental significance which is what the PSSA is there to protect.

All of these measures are clearly a step in the right direction for shipping’s sustainable future but with time ticking, targets set 4 years away and the alarming rate of global warming you can argue that this is all a little too late.


Share This