Sulphur 2020: Good planning enables success

On 1 January, the IMO’s new global low sulphur rules (commonly known as IMO2020) came into effect. The scheme is designed to dramatically lower sulphur emissions, which have negative impacts on the environment and people’s health, especially those living or working in port communities. We check in with Wallenius Wilhelmsen’s head of sustainability, Roger Strevens, to get an update on the first six months of IMO 2020.

Roger Strevens (3)

Firstly, can you tell us how Wallenius Wilhelmsen is managing the IMO202O global sulphur cap?

We’ve switched from High Sulphur Fuel Oil (HSFO) to 0.50% Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO), for most of our vessels. The remainder of our fleet is being equipped with exhaust gas cleaning systems, also known as scrubbers, which remove sulphur oxides (‘SOx’) from engine exhaust gas.

In IMO’s specially designated Emission Control Areas, where a 0.10% sulphur limit applies, we’re continuing to use 0.10%S Marine Gas Oil (MGO).

The scrubbers we’re installing are of a hybrid design, meaning they can operate with or without overboard discharge of wash water used to remove sulphur from the exhaust. Overboard discharges are regulated to ensure they remain within approved limits.

Now that we are 6 months into 2020, have you experienced any unforeseen challenges?

As the saying goes, the more you prepare, the luckier you get. We have been fortunate to have had a smooth transition to the new compliance regime. We have not experienced fuel availability shortages and neither have we had major fuel quality or compatibility problems. The detailed, vessel-specific preparations we made have stood us in good stead.

Some countries stopped enforcement due to the coronavirus pandemic; is Wallenius Wilhelmsen still complying in all jurisdictions?

This is an important point! Just because enforcement efforts have been temporarily scaled back in some ports does not alter the fact that all vessels still must comply, all the time and everywhere. It’s like road speed limits – just because the police may not be actively monitoring traffic does not mean the limits do not apply.

Has the cost of compliance been in line with your expectations so far?

Future compliance costs are based on future pricing of fuels, which, of course, are unknowable. Hence, the mechanisms we have for dealing with compliance cost are flexible. So far, costs have been aligned with expectations.

Do you think IMO2020 has significantly reduced shipping’s sulphur emissions?

The average sulphur content of fuel prior to 1 January was about 2.4%, so with IMO2020, SOx emissions from shipping should have fallen by about 80%. Perhaps the most compelling compliance indicator will come when the total volume of Heavy Sulphur Fuel Oil (HSFO) sold during the year is compared against the installed base of scrubbers. However, it would be surprising if that revealed widespread non-compliance.

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