The Impending IMO Regulation and its Unknown Impact to Shipping

Source: ACT News

One year ago, ACT News published an article calling attention to the possible worldwide ramifications of the January 1, 2020 change in marine fuel specifications. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations affiliated body that sets standards for environment, vessel safety, and regulations for shipping across the globe, will soon require that all ocean-going vessels (OGVs) either burn fuel that contains no more than 0.5% sulfur or meet a functional equivalent by installing on-board emission control equipment that will filter sulfur from vessel exhaust.

By way of review, the OGVs of the world have been burning petroleum-based fuels with high sulfur content for the past few decades—anywhere between 3.5% and 4.5%. These marine fuels, known as “bunker fuel” or “heavy fuel oil” (HFO), are from the bottom of the oil barrel and consist of the material that is left over after the higher-grade fuels, such as jet fuel, gasoline and diesel, have been refined out. HFO is so filthy that it has the consistency of cold molasses at ambient temperatures and must be preheated to 219 to 261° F in order to properly flow through pipes from a ship’s fuel tank to its engine.

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