African road rules make 2020 target harder

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

06 December 2016


When the IMO decided earlier this year that the date for the final sulphur cut under the present regulations would come in 2020 rather than 2025, the C E Delft report that underpinned the decision was widely thought to be full of flawed reasoning. However, the rival report initiated by the shipping industry itself, was also dismissed by some analysts as equally flawed. The criticisms centred around the fact that neither report contained any data that could be considered robust concerning the future capacity of refiners to produce the quantities of low sulphur fuels that would be needed. Dropping the current 3.5% level of permitted sulphur to the new figure of 0.5% will require major investment by refiners that many believe will not be forthcoming because there is no incentive for it to happen. Their argument is that if the refining sector does not make the fuel available, then the IMO will have to back pedal or see world trade grind to a halt. This week a minor news story surfaced that highlights why anticipating the future demands of shipping requires a much wider knowledge of world events. The story in question reports the UN Environment programme as saying that five countries in West Africa have decided to stop importing ‘dirty fuels’ from Europe. Apparently, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d'Ivoire have all agreed on the import ban on high sulphur fuels for road vehicles. Currently fuel supplied by European refineries to African nations can contain sulphur levels much higher than that permitted in Europe and in many cases near or above the 0.5% that will become the new global cap for ships outside of ECAs. The new demands of the African nations is for fuel meeting a standard around 0.005% sulphur (50ppm). The implications of this is that any sulphur that was once in the fuel sent to Africa will now be left in the residual fuels that shipping has traditionally used. That will make meeting the IMO imposed 0.5% even more difficult.