As decided in 2016 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the maximum permitted amount of sulphur in ships’ emissions worldwide will be reduced to 0.50% from 3.50% from 1 January 2020 onwards. One of the options open to shipowners from 2020 is to switch to low-sulphur fuel. This is expected to be 70-100% more expensive than the currently-used Heavy Fuel Oil.
Other available options are the installation of exhaust gas cleaning systems such as scrubbers, or switching to cleaner alternative fuels (LNG, for example). However, for a substantial amount of ship owners, these are (still) not feasible options because they are not always technically possible or require significant investment.
In addition, there are numerous uncertainties regarding the implementation and enforcement of the stricter sulphur regulations. This is obviously of great importance, especially considering the potential market disruption that would occur if unscrupulous shipowners continue to use cheaper high-sulphur fuel is. This disparity would have a negative effect on the competitive position of honest shipowners as well as the state of the environment.
Finally, outside Europe in particular, it remains to be seen whether an adequate, qualitative and consistent supply of low-sulphur fuels can be provided. It is notable that oil producers cannot yet give a definitive answer on this subject.