From 1 January 2020, the maximum permitted sulphur content of marine fuel (outside Emission Control Areas) will reduce from 3.5% to 0.5%, which is expected to provide substantial environmental and human health benefits.

At the same time, the 2020 sulphur cap will significantly increase ships’ operating costs and will present major challenges to governments that must ensure consistent enforcement across the globe.

In a joint statement ahead of a critical IMO meeting in February, BIMCO, Clean Shipping Coalition, Cruise Lines International Association, Friends of the Earth US, ICS, International Parcel Tankers’ Association, INTERTANKO, Pacific Environment, World Shipping Council, and WWF Global Arctic Programme, assert that a carriage ban will help ensure robust, simplified and consistent enforcement of the global sulphur cap:

"To secure the intended environmental and health benefits, the organisations say it is of utmost importance that enforcement of this standard is efficient and robust globally. Any failure by governments to ensure consistent implementation and enforcement could also lead to serious market distortion and unfair competition."

A number of international associations representing the global shipping industry, as well as the Cook Islands and Norway, have already submitted proposals to IMO to ban the carriage of non-complaint fuels. These proposals call for an amendment to Annex VI of the MARPOL Convention, stipulating that ships should not carry fuel for propulsion with a sulphur content above 0.5% (unless they are using an approved alternative compliance method).