Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) welcomes the decision of the IMO MEPC to implement a 0.5% global sulphur cap by 2020.

Sulphur is both a known hazard to public health and a threat to the environment. The committee’s decision to opt for the earlier of the two potential dates is a demonstration of its intent to move the industry towards a future of cleaner fuels.

While an important milestone for the industry, the MEPC’s decision is not one we take lightly. The implementation of the global cap on January 1, 2020 will mean significant increases in the price of marine fuel as well as increasing price volatility as the market adjusts in the years to follow.

And regulation in itself will not create the conditions that will lead to a cleaner environment and better public health; nor will it ensure a level playing field in the shipping industry. WWL believes that effective enforcement of the global sulphur cap promises to be even more challenging than enforcing the ECA zones currently in effect.

For effective implementation, the signatories to Marpol Annex VI who agreed the global cap must adopt clear legal frameworks, together with a plan to ensure consistent implementation internationally, guidelines for robust enforcement and sanction schemes that are a real deterrent to non-compliance.

As part of its decision to adopt 2020 as the implementation date, the MEPC also agreed to discuss measures needed to implement the 0.50% sulphur limit. Those discussions will begin at IMO’s PPR Sub-Committee when it meets in January 2017 - a development we also welcome.

WWL has been working towards the most efficient and cost effective means of complying with sulphur regulations for more than a decade, adopting a four-stream approach to minimise risk and enhance our ability to adapt to the decision - and the volatile fuel prices we expect to see in future.

Our adoption in 2004 of a voluntary limit of 1.5% global average sulphur content in the fuel we consume has brought us much valuable experience operating with low sulphur fuels. It has also saved 186,500 tons of sulphur emissions over the past 12 years.

As regulations have evolved and society’s understanding of the health impact of sulphur emissions has increased, we have now shifted to a policy of using fuel with less than 0.1% sulphur or equivalent at berth globally, without exceptions or exemptions. Driven by a desire to reduce sulphur emissions in the populated areas around ports, this is accomplished through either the use of MGO or abatement technology.

Our WWL four-stream approach for compliance solutions embraces separate tracks to meet compliance levels in a way that reduces risk and cost. The four streams are:

-      Use of bunker fuel with less than 0.5% sulphur, an upstream solution that is manageable for users;

-      Exploration and development of other energy sources through projects exploring alternatives such as LNG, biodiesel and solar power;

-      Exhaust gas cleaning systems (scrubbers) for a technical approach to compliance – as used on some of WWL’s new HERO class RoRo vessels;

-      Distillate fuels – though requiring relatively modest on-board adjustments, this solution is challenging in terms of price and availability.

Our customers can continue to rely on WWL to be an environmental front-runner, embracing a compliance culture to encourage industry-wide adoption of higher standards.

However, much work remains to ensure a level playing field for the entire global industry and before the 0.5% global sulphur cap can begin to have the intended impact. Working through the Trident Alliance, WWL will contribute as much as possible in this process, sharing our experience and insight from the implementation of voluntary sulphur regulations on a global basis.