I’m going to do a slightly different take on 2020, because we talk about 2020 as a standalone event and I don’t see that; it’s part of a sequence that goes long back in history and I will attempt to make you think about the future. There is no doubt that Sulphur dioxide harms both human health and the environment.

Therefore, reducing Sulphur dioxide is good and we have to do something about it; that was the reason why IMO started discussing about Sulphur cap. The problem with the way we do this kind of legislation is that we look at one thing at a time; but when we are talking about Sulphur and air pollution, we are talking about health effects. In fact, the numbers indicating the health impacts associated with delay of MARPOL global Sulphur standards are scary; and these are not only concern the marine environment bur also the rest of the world. For instance, the pollution is the port of Hamburg is part of the maritime, but a large part of it, certainly has nothing to do with the industry alone; so, we have issues with respect to our approach to coordinated legislation.

In essence, governing bodies, i.e. IMO/ EU and national legislations look at one thing at a time whether because taking a holistic view is difficult or because it’s easier to deal with one thing at a time, to slice the elephant. I am not sure. But the fact remains that a lot of legislation is being implemented without consideration to the side effects. Some of the things that we are doing are complementary, some are contradictory, and when it comes to the Sulphur legislation there are actually quite some contradictory issues.

When it comes to Sulphur dioxide, global cap is a measure that aims to have an enormous effect; on the other side, it has a negative effect on the greenhouse gases. According to studies, the global Sulphur cap will reduce global Sox with abt. 8.8 million tons p.a. but it will increase CO2 with approx. 60 million tons p.a. It is worth mentioning that although other research may indicate different figure, the fact remains that numbers are large, and are purely from the upstream element of producing a different kind of fuel for the ships compared to the current fuel. There are indeed greenhouse gas effects, but the sulphur dioxide has a cooling effect, meaning that out in the open ocean is actually a benefit for the world climate; if we emitted a little more Sulphur dioxide, it would keep the temperature down.

All in all, Sulphur has an effect on the climate; some is positive, some is negative but above all - what we are doing with the Sulphur dioxide for now will have a negative climate effect. That’s not really taken into account when on the other hand we come around and say that we have to do something about the climate. We have IMO established our targets for 2030 and 2050, but we are not taking into account that in the process, instead we are doing things like Sulphur cap or the ballast water exchange or like the NOx emissions which all have a knock-on (6.21) effect-on the climate; I am not saying this is necessarily bad, or this it’s good, I am just highlighting that it’s an effect that one has to face when we look at these things and that’s not really been done today. In other words, we do not have the total picture when we take on new legislation and that’s a little bit sad, but it may also be the reality because it’s too complicated to do if we did it all.  But we have a huge challenge when it comes to greenhouse gases; we just have to deal with, that on the road, there will be some bumps such as the Sulphur cap that will pull us in the other direction; so we have to be even smarter going forward.

It is quite odd the fact that a huge refinery that takes Sulphur out of the fuel oil, it actually generates more greenhouse gases than if you had a small plant on board of a ship and ask them to do the same thing. I don’t understand the logic, then again, I am not a designer of oil refineries, nor am I a designer of scrubber equipment, but this is really the fact; it is more efficient from a greenhouse gas perspective to take out the Sulphur from the exhaust on board the ship, rather than take out the Sulphur in the refining process ashore. However, there is a negative effect on doing it on board the ship, since we use some power. To our experience, we use 1.5 to 2% more power just to run the scrubber; more power equals to more greenhouse gas. But on shore they use a lot more if they want to achieve the same results.  It’s odd but that is what the experts tell us so that’s why the solution to invest in scrubbers is actually not a bad solution, also from a greenhouse gas perspective.

So, what about LNG? A lot has been said about LNG and it certainly has no Sulphur dioxide when it comes out of the stack, but we have a greenhouse gas effect that concerns me a lot more than it does for the more traditional bunker fuels that we have already onboard.

The methane is a nasty greenhouse gas. I think we have contained the methane slip in the engine process, at least we have minimized it. But we have to look at the well-to-wake perspective here and even the smallest slip of methane in the logistic chain will have a tremendous effect on greenhouse gases. If you have a 3% slip of methane, it is worse than a coal fire power station on greenhouse gases. So, LNG will reduce air pollution but it will not solve the greenhouse gases issue; LNG is not a fuel for the 2050s, but it may have some benefits leading up to then but don’t expect it to be a long-term solution.


Above text is an edited version of Poul Woodall’s presentation during the 2019 SAFETY4SEA Hamburg Forum.

View his presentation herebelow


The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion  purposes only.

Poul Woodall, Director, Environment & Sustainability, DFDS A/S

Poul Woodall has over 40 years of experience within the maritime and transport industry. His career includes 17 years overseas experience with postings in Asia, The Middle East and Europe. Since 2013, Poul has been responsible for environment and climate policy issues for the DFDS Group. Poul Woodall has a degree from Copenhagen Business School supplemented with management education at Insead and Stanford Universities. Poul is also involved with various industry groups such as the Trident Alliance, Interferry, CSA2020, SeaFocus, TINV and various ESSF working groups in Brussels. In July 2018 Poul joined the CEF Transport Advisory Group of INEA and is a co-author of “Sustainable Shipping, a Cross-Disciplinary View” (Springer , 2019).