Compliance with the sulphur cap with be challenging enough in itself, but a further concern involves the competitive advantage gained from illegal non-compliance
When the new rules for marine fuel oil take effect from 1 January 2020, only fuels with a sulphur content below 0.50% will be compliant.
The rules are embedded in Marpol Annex VI as Regulation 14 and apply to fuel oil used outside Emission Control Areas (ECA). Within ECAs, a limit of 0.10% has been in force since 2015.
According to Statista, the world fleet constituted roughly 52,000 ships above 500 gt in 2017; for a large number of these ships the upcoming SOx rules are not of relevance, as they operate on distillate fuels. According to MAN ES, few ships below 2,000 gt with less than 3,000 kW installed power are configured to operate on HFO.
Compliance in North Europe
The sulphur rules have in principle been enforced since their introduction in 2005. It was only after the 2015 ECA rules took effect, however, that deliberate non-compliance was considered a genuine concern. With a current price gap between compliant and non-compliant fuel of some USD225, bunkering 1,000 tonnes of non-compliant fuel could release a “cheating bonus” of USD225,000.
As the present ECAs are situated in North Europe and North America, areas with long established Port State Control regimes, they do not offer a realistic guide as to how other ECAs might operate around the world, notably because fuel oil inspections have never really been an issue outside the ECAs. It is thus with some apprehension that the shipping community at large will greet 2020.
Enforcement in general
There are essentially two ways in which a vessel can demonstrate compliance with the rules:
- Show the sulphur content in the fuel – BDN and fuel sampling; or
- Take a measurement of SOx content in the exhaust gas.
The measurement of the SOx content in the exhaust gas is done by establishing the relationship between the number of CO2 molecules in the fume and the surrounding air and the number of SO2 molecules. This relationship can, via a relatively simple formula, be translated to the Fuel Sulphur Content (FSC): 𝐹𝑆𝐶 = 𝑆𝑂2𝑚𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑒𝑑 [𝑝𝑝𝑚] / (𝐶𝑂2𝑚𝑒𝑎𝑠𝑢𝑟𝑒𝑑 −𝐶𝑂2𝑏𝑎𝑐𝑘𝑔𝑟𝑜𝑢𝑛𝑑) [𝑝𝑝𝑚] ∙105 ∙0.02308
According to the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) the overall compliance rate in the North European ECA is around 95%, based on PSC inspections. Still, the use of non-compliant fuel constitutes a reasonably large minority (21%).
External emissions monitoring
The main problem regarding enforcement is that at present, it is literally impossible to monitor which fuel oil is being used and the consequent emissions on the open sea.
Although the United Nations’ Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS) does grant littoral states some rights to intervene on ships in international waters, few coastguards would actually consider boarding a ship in open sea to check for compliance with Marpol Annex VI. The jurisdiction of the ships lies basically with the flag state, most of which have no capacity, or interest in, performing such checks.
Monitoring exhaust gasses from planes, drones, satellites, under-bridge and at port entrances have been trialed for some years. The sniffer project under the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark started as early as 2013. Later, the port of Gothenburg tested a combination of sniffers and laser beams at the port entrance and recently a successful sniffer project was run at the entrance to Bergen in Norway.
"The maritime authorities within the ECA areas have responded positively to the concerns expressed"
Several EU states within the ECA have performed fly-overs with airplanes to examine ships’ fumes, which eventually led the EU Commission to issue the guidance: Best Practices Airborne Marpol Annex VI Monitoring, under the Compliance Monitoring (CompMon) Project.
The Finnish Meteorological Institute even tried monitoring emissions via satellite, with limited success. It has been possible to measure the average SOx content in the air over a large area, but not to identify the level of SOx emissions from a specific source.
The Danish company Explicit ApS has carried out ship emissions monitoring on behalf of the Danish EPA since June 2017, using helicopters and drones. Upon evaluation 96.5 % of all measurements were classified as high-quality; 92-97% of the vessels checked were compliant, depending on geographic location.
This method of monitoring might be considered more efficient than the use of permanent sniffers, simply because most ship crew will be aware of where permanent sniffers are located, whereas they could never know when a plane or a drone would appear. In fact, the results show a generally higher SOx content far from shore than under the Great Belt Bridge, implying that some ships change to compliant fuel before passing under the bridge.
It is important to note that the results obtained by these methods are only indicative and are not likely to be used as evidence in court. For prosecution purposes, a lab-test of the fuel would be required. The intention is that Port State Control will use the sniffer results to identify ships for in-port inspections.
Internal emissions monitoring
Scrubbers installed in accordance with IMO’s Scheme B require constant monitoring and recording. In the early days of scrubbers, the Continuous Emission Monitoring System (CEMS) was an Achilles’ heel of the system, but reliability is now improving. Sensor manufacturer SICK’s strategic industry manager Hinrich Brumm said: “The CEMS technology came from onshore and was not always suitable in the harsh marine environment. However, as a manufacturer, this led us to develop a new CEMS especially for marine use and for undergoing type approvals (class requirements IACS E10, vibration, power fluctuation, etc, and Marpol compliance)”.
The mandatory installation of CEMS was actually proposed by IMO, but to no avail. And while some owners have mooted the notion of voluntary CEMS installation and reporting to their customers, interest from the shippers community in general has been minimal. They simply expect the carrier to be compliant.
There is no doubt that emissions monitoring can is an important tool in the enforcement of the sulphur rules, there remains some considerable resistance among many flag states and shipowner associations to the mandatory use of CEMS. It will likely require a high level of global non-compliance before the shipping community at large is convinced of the merits of the mandatory installation of CEMS.
"Some owners have mooted the notion of voluntary CEMS installation and reporting to their customers, [but] interest from the shippers community in general has been minimal"
In early 2014, as concern over intentional non-compliance with the emissions rules grew, a group of owners met in the Maersk Maritime Technology office in Copenhagen to discuss how to avoid such a situation, via the implementation of a very robust enforcement regime. The meeting resulted in the formation of the Trident Alliance, an association which today comprises 46 shipowner members.
Whether a result of the Trident Alliance or otherwise, it must be acknowledged that the maritime authorities within the ECA areas have responded positively to the concerns expressed. The EU Commission established the European Sustainable Shipping Forum (ESSF) in 2014, one subgroup of which was tasked with addressing enforcement of the SOx rules within EU waters.
Discussing the actions taken in this area, chairman of the Trident Alliance Roger Strevens said: “The range and quality of enforcement tools have improved since the implementation of the 0.1%S ECA zones, but the global sulphur cap will require more. Among the enforcement tools that are being further developed are remote sensing technologies. The Trident Alliance welcomes this focus and supports the adoption of reliable new compliance detection techniques and technologies. Effective enforcement tools, used in conjunction with the (heavy fuel oil) carriage ban, will have an important deterrence effect, in addition to contributing to the detection and eventual prosecution of gross violators.”
How do owners perceive exhaust gas monitoring?
Scrubbers have something of a mixed reputation, but among their advocates, DFDS director of environment & sustainability Poul Woodall has only praise: “At DFDS we installed the first scrubber on Ficaria Seaways in 2009. Today we have 18 scrubber-fitted vessels in service, nine newbuildings contracted and a decision to retrofit a further 12 vessels with scrubbers. By and large our scrubbers have worked well.”
He continues: “During the past couple of years, DFDS has participated in the testing of drones and plane/helicopters for emissions monitoring of SOx. Basically, test flights have been conducted over a number of DFDS vessels – primarily scrubber fitted – and the results from the airborne readings have been compared with sensor readings from our ships. The work has been done by an external company, but we understand that the results reach an acceptable level that proves the accuracy of such airborne measurements.”
Looking to the future
We will likely be well into 2020, or even 2021, before we know whether non-compliance with the 2020 sulphur regulations poses a real problem.
It must be noted that the objective of the regulation is to protect the population from the unhealthy fumes caused by burning HFO. Recent measurements in Denmark show that sulphur content in the air has reduced by 50% since 2015, clear evidence that the rules are working in this region.
From a shipowner perspective, the main concern is if competitors gain an unfair advantage by deliberately violating the rules. Some non-compliance might be initiated and executed by the ship’s crew without the consent of the owner and that will not disturb the competition. If, however, a vessel is caught burning non-compliant fuel and it proves to be company policy instigated from top management, the hope is that all involved would use the most rigorous response available to them to crack down on such practices.
DFDS A/S director environment & sustainability Poul Woodall
Poul Woodall has over 40 years of experience within the maritime and transport industry. He has a degree from Copenhagen Business School supplemented with management education at Insead and Stanford Universities. Mr Woodall is also involved with the Trident Alliance, Green Ship of the Future, Interferry and various ESSF working groups in Brussels. In July 2018, Mr Woodall joined the new CEF Transport Advisory Group of INEA.
Wallenius Wilhelmsen vice president of global sustainability Roger Strevens
Mr Strevens works with a wide array of corporate activities, ranging from regulatory affairs to innovation and new business development. He is also the founder and chairman of the Trident Alliance. Mr Strevens holds an engineering degree from the University of Dublin, Trinity College.