If shipping is the most efficient way to move goods, the industry’s smoke-belching reputation is not made up, either. Starting in 2020, it will get a big chance to improve its image with the arrival of the new global sulphur regulation.
The 2020 sulphur rule, introduced by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) – the UN’s special agency that governs shipping – will slash the allowable sulphur content in the fuel of vessels sailing the open ocean to 0.5% m/m from the current 3.5% m/m limit.
Maersk and other shipping lines have voiced support for the rule since it was agreed back in 2008. There is just one major problem: No one knows how to enforce it yet.
“For the rule to work and reduce sulphur emissions, everyone needs to abide by it and that means there needs to be a way of policing the emissions of all vessels on the open sea And no one has that solution yet,” says Simon Bergulf, Regulatory Affairs Director at A.P. Moller – Maersk.
The incentive to cheat
The shipping industry already faces strict sulphur emission rules in certain coastal zones, the so-called Emission Control Areas (ECA), which include the coasts of the United States, and parts of Europe and Asia. Policing these defined areas along the coasts is not easy, but the open sea is a far bigger challenge.
“In coastal areas around states such as Denmark, we can use drones and so-called sniffers to identify cheaters by analysing the ships’ chimney smoke, but there are no solutions yet for surveilling the open sea” says Annette Stube, Head of Sustainability at A.P. Moller – Maersk.