Study: Delay of Sulphur Cap Law Would Endanger 200K Lives

The implementation of a global low-sulphur fuel law for ships in 2020 would prevent 200,000 premature deaths globally, a health study by a group of leading researchers from the United States and Finland reveals.

The announcement was made after the international shipping association BIMCO raised concerns over data on available fuel ahead of Marine Environment Protection Commitee (MEPC) decision on the 0.5% global sulphur cap implementation date, reportedly with an aim to delay the measure for five years.

“Delaying this action for five years would contribute to 200,000 extra premature deaths due to the toxic fumes, mainly in coastal communities in the developing world that barely benefit from global trade,” NGOs Seas at Risk said, adding that on-time implementation of cleaner ship fuel could avoid 134,650 premature deaths in Asia, 32,100 in Africa and 20,800 in Latin America.

“A delay would ensure that health impacts from sulphur emissions will persist in coastal communities that are exposed, where shipping lanes are most intense and communities most densely populated,” Prof. James Corbett of University of Delaware, one of the leading authors of the study, said.

In 2008, the IMO unanimously adopted a global sulphur cap requiring all ships to use fuels with a maximum 0.5% sulphur content as of January 1, 2020. In late October, the organization will decide whether to stick to the earlier agreed date.

The 2020 implementation date was made dependent on the results of a study to determine whether sufficient low sulphur fuel would be available then. That study, commissioned by the IMO and published last August, shows that under all scenarios and sensitivity options considered, there will be sufficient clean fuel available in 2020.

However, an independent supplementary study, funded by BIMCO, among others, concluded that it is unlikely that there will be sufficient low sulphur fuel available in 2020, while maintaining uninterrupted supply of fuel to all other sectors of the global economy.

Additionally, BIMCO said that the official IMO study “has failed to fully address the IMO’s terms of reference,” adding that “it is not possible to determine that the global refining industry will have the capacity to produce enough marine fuel by 2020.”