Study: Shipowners unsure about approach to sulfur directive

A survey published by US-based oil major ExxonMobil shows that a significant majority of the queried carriers are unsure about what they need to do in order to comply with the upcoming 2020 sulfur cap.

There is widespread confusion in the maritime world about the upcoming global sulfur cap, set to come into force in 2020.

Results highlight an ongoing sense of confusion and lack of preparedness, with 70 percent of respondents saying that they do not believe the industry is ready for the deadline"

Iain White, global marine marketing, ExxonMobil
A study performed by US energy major ExxonMobil shows that 70 percent of respondents doubt that the sector is ready to comply with the cap once it comes into force around two years from now.

"Results highlight an ongoing sense of confusion and lack of preparedness, with 70 percent of respondents saying that they do not believe the industry is ready for the deadline. The makeup of the marine fuel mix in 2020 and beyond is a clear area of concern, with wide-ranging views from the industry on how the landscape will evolve," writes ExxonMobil in a press release.

32 percent of respondents expects to use a blend of heavy fuel and marine gas oil, while 69 percent expect that low sulfur fuel types will be developed.

"At ExxonMobil we expect that new 0.5 percent fuel formulations will emerge, based on low sulfur refinery streams, in addition to novel fuel blends," says Iain White, Global Marine Marketing Manager, ExxonMobil.

Set to come into force in 2020

Today, ship fuel can contain up to 3.5 percent sulfur. From 2020, this limit will be lowered to 0.5 percent.

The IMO decided already back in 2008 to lower the cap on sulfur content in ship fuel, but uncertainty has since reigned about whether there will be sufficient low sulfur fuel available by 2020. If demand cannot be met, the cap could be postponed to 2025.

According to the IMO's own expert studies, there will be enough low sulfur fuel available in 2020, though another study reached the opposite conclusion.

Going forward, vessels could face a downright ban on carrying fuel on board that contains more than 0.5 percent sulfur, as Norway has decided to start work on a proposal for such a ban at the IMO.

English Edit: Daniel Logan Berg-Munch

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