Are You Prepared For The 2020 Cap on Sulphur Emissions?

Sulphur emissions are one of the major components of air pollution.

They cause respiratory diseases, contribute to acid rain and form aerosol gases. Because of the high content of sulphur compounds in marine fuels, the maritime industry has always been a huge part of the problem.

The IMO has been working to reduce the environmental impact of shipping since as far back as the 1960s and their latest initiative is to introduce a cap on sulphur emissions that will come into force on 1st January 2020.

The New 2020 Regulation

Regulation 14.1.3 of MARPOL Annex will set a limit of 0.50% m/m on the sulphur content of fuel oil used by ships – a dramatic reduction from the current 3.50% limit.

The sulphur content of oil is lowered by refining, but the maritime industry has traditionally used mostly low-grade fuel oils like heavy oil and diesel oil, both of which have a high sulphur content. Therefore, the main aim of the new regulation is to ensure that marine engines use a low-sulphur oil or a better grade of fuel such as marine gas oil.


Ships must be issued with an International Air Pollution Prevention (IAPP) Certificate by their flag state which states that they use a fuel oil that’s compliant with the new regulation. When they take on fuel, they must also obtain a bunker delivery note that details the oil’s sulphur content. Samples may be taken to verify this, and port and coastal states can use surveillance, assess smoke plumes and apply many other techniques to catch out vessels that attempt to evade the 0.50% m/m limit.

Vessels that fail to comply can be fined and may even be declared unseaworthy, stopping them from sailing.

Impact on shipping

Approximately 90% of world trade is by sea and global shipping currently consumes around four million barrels of high sulphur fuel oil per day. It’s estimated that fuel accounts for about half of a ship’s daily operating cost so the new regulation will have a huge impact on the industry.

Based on average consumption of 20 to 80 tonnes of fuel a day, a vessel using cleaner fuel can expect to face extra daily expenses of about $6,000 to $20,000. Overall, global shipping costs are expected to rise by at least a quarter and analysts say that the maritime industry is not prepared for the change.

How to comply

There are three main ways of making sure your vessels meet the standards required by the new regulation. However, all of them come with added costs and challenges.

Use compliant fuels
This is the most straightforward solution – ships can simply switch to a low sulphur fuel without the need to fit expensive new equipment. These low sulphur fuels have an extended refining process which removes a much larger amount of the sulphur content. However, the process means that fuel can cost up to 50% more and there are concerns that refiners may struggle to meet demand when the new regulations take effect.

Install exhaust gas cleaning systems
Known as ‘scrubbers’, these clean the ship’s emissions before they’re released into the atmosphere, stripping out the sulphur content. They enable vessels to continue using lower grade fuel while still meeting the IMO’s new regulation.

Many vessels are already using scrubbers and, by 2020, around 20,000 ships are expected to be equipped. However, fitting them takes time and there are only a limited number of manufacturers and installers – only around 500 vessels per year can be equipped. With a global fleet of over 90,000 vessels, this means that fitting every ship with scrubbers would take over 100 years.

The installation of adequate scrubbing equipment is also expensive, costing between $1-$10million per vessel. Additionally, if the equipment should break down while the vessel is at sea, operators would be faced with even more costs as well as significant operational difficulties.

Use clean gas LNG as fuel
This is a considerably greener alternative to oil and is seen as much more viable in the long term because it reduces sulphur emissions by up to 95%. As with scrubbers, this option does involve a large investment when it comes to installation as converting existing ships to run on LNG requires them to be re-engined. The fuel store and insulation equipment also take up a large amount of valuable space on board and currently, few ports have the necessary infrastructure to supply vessels.

Despite this, an increasing number of ships are beginning to use LNG in preparation for the new IMO regulation. Methanol is also being used as a fuel source on some short sea services.

What steps are you taking to prepare for the cap on sulphur emissions?

This is a very difficult transitional period for the maritime industry – you need to make sure you’re ready for 1st January 2020.

Contact us to find out how we can help.

The Most Common Cause of Death at Sea

Working at sea has always been demanding – the hours are long and irregular and the job usually requires military-precision routine. The environment also has the additional risks of handling machinery, chemicals, fuels and gases without easy access to emergency services if things go wrong.

Despite advanced technology and a greater focus on safety, there are still many dangers to seafarers. The economic struggles faced by the maritime industry have also resulted in the reduction of crew numbers, an increase in work hours and quicker turnarounds in ports that leaves less time to rest and recover.


The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) was first proposed in response to the sinking of The Titanic but eventually took effect across signatory flag states in 1948. The current version came into force in 1974 and is continually amended and updated to take into account new developments in merchant shipping and more sophisticated safety procedures.

It covers everything from the stability of installations and how cargo is carried to communications, ship management and what life-saving equipment should be kept on board. However, despite the comprehensive guidelines set out by SOLAS, fatalities on ships are still occurring from a variety of different sources.

Liberian Flag data

Liberian Flag has collated and published information regarding the leading causes of death among its seafarers for the last five years. The data goes up to 1st November 2018 and even then, without the last two months of the year, it can be seen that 2018 wasn’t the best year for safety. In fact, it was the worst since 2014 with 43 deaths lives lost at sea.

Being caught or hit by objects caused 7 deaths and suicide was responsible for 5 but the most significant number – double the nearest figure – was for ‘heart attack, collapse, unconscious’. These issues caused the deaths of 14 seafarers in 2018 and the numbers were just as high for the previous years: 18 in 2017, 14 in 2016, 19 in 2015, 25 in 2014 and 12 in 2013. ‘Heart attack, collapse, unconscious’ has been the leading cause of death among Liberian Flag seafarers for the last 5 years.

The risks of Sudden Cardiac Arrest at sea

Sudden Cardiac Arrest can strike anyone at any time, even the fittest and most healthy but the most common cause is a heart attack – a blockage in the arteries which prevents oxygenated blood from reaching the heart. Obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and a cholesterol heavy diet can all be contributing factors.

Clinical and statistical studies have also identified several other factors that increase the risk of a heart attack. Men, for example, are at greater risk and fall victim earlier in life – generally over the age of 45. As you get older, your blood vessels become less flexible making it harder for blood to flow through them, so age is a significant factor.

Over 25% of officers on ships from OECD countries are over 50 years old and 50% are over 40. There are many additional contributing factors on board a working vessel too – hypothermia, electrocution, trauma caused by impacts or falls, respiratory and circulation problems, metabolic changes and the effects of drugs all significantly increase the chances of suffering a sudden cardiac arrest.

Protecting Seafarers

Rapid defibrillation with an AED is the only proven way to treat Sudden Cardiac Arrest. If a victim is shocked within sixty seconds, their chances of survival can be as high as 90%. Within five minutes, there’s still a 70% chance but after this, it drops by 10% every minute.

For this reason, AEDs are becoming commonplace in schools, sports venues, tourist locations and workplaces – and they’re saving lives. However, if your workplace is at sea, hours away from a hospital or medevac, and a crew member suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, their chances of survival are practically zero if there isn’t AED in the medical chest.

Germany was the first flag state to introduce legislation that legally requires seagoing merchant vessels to carry AEDs but this was way back in 2012 and the rest of the world has been very slow to follow suit. While AEDs are becoming standard equipment on cruise ships and ferries, merchant vessels – with all their increased risks – are still being neglected.

Lifeforce Marine AED

Lifeforce is designed specifically for the tough conditions faced on board ship. It’s the first AED to be GL Type Approved for the marine industry and is rated IPX4 for water protection, IP5X for dust protection and has been jet and helicopter tested, coming up to US Military standards for shock and vibration. The handle and sides are rubberised to prevent impact damage and there are no lids, cases or moving parts to get in the way during an emergency. It’s lightweight, portable and easy to store.

During an emergency situation, non-medically trained personnel may often be in a state of panic so it’s also essential that your AED is easy to use for all crew members – it could make all the difference to a victim’s survival. Independent studies have shown that Lifeforce is the simplest and most successful AED to use in the world, stating that: ‘Users are on average 26% more likely to deliver effective defibrillation using LIFEFORCE® than with other AEDs’.

Stay safe at sea.

Make sure your crew are protected from the world’s biggest killer with a Type Approved defibrillator that you can depend on.

Contact us to find out more.