Global shipping industry agrees to deep cuts in pollutants

By: Jason Whittaker


The global shipping industry has reached an historic agreement on environmental management that will see it slash emissions of pollutants

The global shipping industry has reached an historic agreement on environmental management that will see it slash emissions of pollutants by up to 90 percent.

The unanimous decision by the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) will see further cuts in sulphur levels in the fuel used by ships.

The IMO has agreed to a progressive reduction in the global cap on sulphur content in marine fuel from the current 4.5 percent to 0.5 percent by 2020.

Marine fuels containing smaller amounts of sulphur produce fewer emissions of sulphur oxide - a cause of acid rain and 60,000 premature deaths worldwide each year, particularly amongst people with respiratory illnesses.

The international shipping industry, which carries around 90 percent of world trade by volume on about 50,000 merchant vessels, accounts for about 6 to 12 percent of global sulphur oxide emissions.

The Australian Government has welcomed the move, which it says will achieve significant health and environmental benefits.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says the decision delivers cleaner fuel while giving oil refineries the time and certainty to make the necessary operational changes.

Albanese also welcomes the proposed implementation date of 2020 for the final stage of the global cap – subject to a review in 2018 – which he says allows time for the issues surrounding availability of the new cleaner marine fuel to be addressed.

The new marine fuel quality standards are likely to be ratified at the October meeting of the MEPC.

Speaking at the close of last week's meeting, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios said "it will certainly be one of IMO's finest hours when this happens six months from now".

Albanese says there is need for urgency, with sulphur oxide emissions from ships 213 times higher than those from all cars and 97 times higher those from the aviation sector.

"Under the Rudd Labor Government, Australia is playing a positive and active role in international organisations, such as IMO, as a means of both protecting our national interest and advancing global action on collective challenges," he says.

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