London, 7th April 2008. Last week the International Maritime Organisation successfully negotiated an end to the use by ships of polluting residual heavy fuel oil but made little progress on greenhouse gas emissions.

London, 7th April 2008. Last week the International Maritime Organisation successfully negotiated an end to the use by ships of polluting residual heavy fuel oil but made little progress on greenhouse gas emissions.

The agreement to shift from residual heavy fuel oil (HFO) to marine diesel oil (MDO) as the principle fuel for large ships is contained in a complicated and hotly negotiated agreement aimed at reducing SOx, NOx and particulate pollution from shipping. The agreement includes a progressive tightening of both the global sulphur cap and the maximum sulphur content in fuel used in sensitive areas. The global cap will go from the current 4.5% to 3.5% in 2012 and 0.5% in 2020; the latter is effectively a MDO specification although the agreement allows the possibility of implementation of the cap by other means. In going for a tougher global sulphur cap the meeting rejected the use of flue gas scrubbers and the establishment of a network of mini SOx emission control areas.



A separate working group considered various options for cutting greenhouse gas emissions from shipping but all substantive discussion and the development of individual measures was held over until a special intercessional working group meeting in Oslo in June. Progress was slow in large part because of the persistent demands of China, India and Brazil that their ships be excluded from any mandatory obligations; this would be in-line with the Kyoto principle of “shared but differentiated responsibility”, but is entirely inappropriate in the case of shipping where “flags of convenience” have long since meant that there is no real link between flag-State and the beneficial ownership of vessels. With so little progress made at this meeting the task of agreeing measures that result in substantial real cuts in CO2 emissions from shipping by the IMO deadline of July 2009 now seems enormous, and success wholly dependent on a significant change of attitude amongst many of those involved in the negotiations.



The above negotiations took place in London at the 57th session of the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee.

 

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