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From the 1st of January 2020 ships may only use fuel with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5%; the current standard allows fuel with a maximum of 3.5%. The so-called IMO 2020 directive is the first in a series of measures by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to reduce sea pollution.


Quick Cargo Sea-freight manager, Ingo Schmich, on the imminent changes:Quick Cargo Sea-freight manager, Ingo Schmich, on the imminent changes:

Will IMO 2020 revolutionise maritime shipping?

I would very clearly say, YES, and I think that this step is long overdue for the international movement of goods through the global merchant fleet. For several decades we have had declaratory discussions about climate change and necessary action, with strong, sustainable changes. But only in the last two decades have we seen changes in legislation and the perception of these things with a sense of responsibility. A reduction in the sulphur content of fossil fuels has been intensified since 2008, and was quickly implemented in the leading industrial nations: here the sulphur content has already been for fuels at fuel stations, leading eventually, for many countries, to the Sulphur content approaching a clean zero.

From 2020 civilian shipping and its global merchant fleet will undergo a transformation: a big change lies ahead of us. According to the IMO target, Sulphur emissions will reduce considerably. I see things similarly, but not quite so euphorically. The global merchant fleet consists of around 55,000 ships (it is not effectively provable, but it should supposedly have the same sulphur emissions as almost a billion cars) of which a tiny fraction is already equipped with pollutant filters or engines with alternative fuels such as liquid gas. I have no doubt that the leading industrial nations will implement IMO 2020 punctually and in a future-oriented manner. But this represents only 64% of the global merchant fleet. There will remain nations that will not accept these targets, let alone pursue them energetically.

Nevertheless, IMO 2020 will mark the beginning of a new, greener chapter in maritime shipping, many shipping lines and ship owners will begin their preparations for this step from Q4 in 2019. The important economic factor must also be weighed along with the reduction in emissions and pollution. Shipping lines and ship owners are speaking of starkly rising costs: fuel with reduced Sulphur can be up to $250 per ton more expensive. There are also increased orders for new ships with filters and alternative fuels. All these costs will, of course, ultimately be passed along the chain to the consumer. When we invest in our operational business locations in the future, these investments are calculated to be passed on to customers and consumers.

Every solution in the arena of pollutant reduction brings its own challenges, whichever path the individual chooses (new vessels, conversion to liquid gas or even hybrid models) remains open, the alternatives remain very time intensive. In the end, no one will be able to avoid the much more expensive fuels with reduced Sulphur. We at QCS sea-freight are preparing for the consequent surcharges.

Will IMO 2020 revolutionise maritime shipping?

Will IMO 2020 revolutionise maritime shipping?

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Fax +49 (0) 6105 / 18 80
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