IMO 2020: Knowledge in Power


The 1st January 2020 is a date that everyone within the maritime community will be very familiar with.  The International Maritime Organisation’s Global Sulphur Cap regulations will enter force representing a historic and significant step forward in addressing air pollution from shipping. 

Whilst maritime professionals may feel at ease and confident in how these new regulations will impact them within their own specialist role, understanding the international framework including recent developments may present challenges.  Dr. Iliana Christodoulou-Varotsi, Course Leader at Lloyd’s Maritime Academy, reinforces the significance of these regulations and why maritime professionals must invest in understanding the context, rationale and operation of air pollution, including Sulphur 2020, if they are to continue running a successful business.

Dr. Iliana Christodoulou-Varotsi, Course Leader at Lloyd’s Maritime Academy

Over the last two years, we have witnessed some notable societal trends which have stemmed from strategies and policies of institutional stakeholders who play an integral role in shaping the future of the regime that governs marine pollution – an important component of which is air pollution from shipping and the Global Sulphur Cap 2020.  The salient source of these developments is the IMO with national legislators also entrusted with legislative work and more importantly, enforcement powers. 

Significant changes affecting air pollution from shipping such as the sulphur 2020 requirement (effective on 1st January 2020), data collection for fuel oil consumption, regional (EU) emissions monitoring, reporting and verification have taken place. Furthermore, in recent times, we have seen a greater focus being placed on the discussion between viability and compliance options, with possible alternative methods coming to the fore including exhaust gas cleaning systems commonly referred to as scrubbers and the use of LNG or methanol. The logistics of certain practices have also been scrutinised pointing to challenges concerning the management of the new landscape, i.e. the fuel changeover process, challenges relating to hybrid fuels, sampling, safety and so forth. Indeed, there are more changes afoot with the international agenda currently showing an appetite for trading schemes in relation to air pollution from shipping.

The shipping business environment has always been highly demanding but as time has passed, it has also become more challenging – often reflected within legal frameworks. There is pressure on the international economy evidenced by freight rates and premiums as well as challenging sustainability demands stemming from in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set out by the international community back in 2015. Consequently, there seems to be a challenge to balance viability and profitability with enhanced operational standards which work in favour of employees and the environment. Maritime professionals, especially those onboard ships, are often faced with noteworthy or even excessive exposure to legal liabilities and so, understanding the context, rationale, and operation of air pollution from shipping is vital if these professionals want to continue running a successful business.

Relevant constraints and the interaction with enforcement authorities and the professionals in charge of environmental standards make this task both urgent and necessary.  With the ambition to be recognised as a valuable professional development tool, Lloyd’s Maritime Academy, the world’s largest professional development provider, has designed a bespoke programme – the Sulphur 2020 Certificate level course intended for maritime professionals.  The learning material has been authored by two experienced Master Mariners and two marine engineers.

Joining one of the biggest communities of learners and peers in the shipping industry and with direct access to the Course Director, students familiarise themselves with the overview of strategies, policies, regulations and best practice. They gain knowledge about the problem of air pollution from shipping, with the focus on Sulphur 2020, current challenges and the best practice under development in the industry.

If you are a new entrant or a maritime professional in transition, this course helps students get to grips with this subject in a user-friendly manner and through self-contained learning modules.  Well-established maritime professionals can also benefit from this course, providing an opportunity to refresh their existing knowledge or obtain critical updates because they simply don’t have the time to do their own research.  This may include legal professionals who can then look at integrating current trends and their learning into their legal framework.

What does the future hold?

In the next five years, I believe we will have a much clearer picture of decarbonisation of shipping. This may entail the creation of new Emission Control Areas with even higher standards, the introduction of additional standards or the enhancement of monitoring or enforcement policies.  We will have a greater understanding of the use of low sulphur fuel in relation to its availability, management, interface with alternative methods, and impact on the environment. Considering these anticipated findings, we may have to revisit our understanding of the problem of reducing air pollution from shipping and the approach that needs to be adopted by regulators and stakeholders.

We are also likely to see a wider use of LNG as an alternative source of energy, and a more comprehensive international network supporting its use. Like aviation and other sectors, trading schemes of air emissions might grasp shipping, starting perhaps with regional regimes. In any case, the advent of new technologies and the benefit of a better understanding of findings and tools available to the industry will continue to shape the future of marine pollution control agenda.

Sea News Feature, October 29

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra

Associate Editor, Sea News