Reuters reports that refiners and shipping companies are expected to spend billions of dollars in the following years in order to ensure fuel and engine compliance. Yet, as enforcement of MARPOL Annex VI, set by the UN rests with individual countries and flag states, means that for some routes and regions, compliance may be inconsistent.

Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping association quoted to Reuters that

without co-ordination and consistency, shipowners will be placed in a no-win situation.

Reuter’s Jonathan Saul stresses that some major states resisted pressure during the U.N.’s COP25 climate talks in Madrid in order to facilitate efforts to deal with global warming, further stressing the need for collective action in order to cut carbon emissions as well as wider pollution.

It is said that over 90 countries have adopted the rules as set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), while parts of Africa and South America are yet to sign up. What is more, countries such as Israel and New Zealand have been unable to sign up in time for the 2020 IMO start date, while others such as Malaysia are considering how to apply the rules.


Specifically, Israeli officials said that the country was unable to meet the 2020 start date as a national proposal on the issue was still in the process of being amended. In addition, Israel’s environment ministry said its proposed regulation would be stricter than MARPOL Annex VI, but gave no time frame for when the country would join.

New Zealand’s government said that it would sign up to the IMO convention soon, as the country’s previous administration had not initiated the process. Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter’s office told Reuters fuel companies in New Zealand were preparing to supply international ships with 0.5% fuel on entering local waters but did not say when this would materialize.

Adding to this, in Ocober, Russia, one of the largest producers of the conventional HFO, was looking to delay implementation of 2020 sulphur regulations for local waters, just over two months before the environmental regulation takes effect in a bid to reduce air pollution from commercial vessels.

Nick Makar, regulatory affairs advisor with the Marshall Islands registry, quoted to Reuters, that it is an obligation under the MARPOL convention to establish sanctions, and that penalties should be “adequate to discourage violations,” adding that

Compliance will be considered on a case by case basis.

On the other hand, Malaysia, which is a major shipping hub for commodities and oil, said it would consider detaining ships until they had compliant fuel. Countries in Europe are planning for full compliance through measures such as “sniffers”, measuring the sulfur content from a vessel’s flue gas; as well as thorough oil sampling at port control areas- with the risk of imprisonment.

What is more, the Panama Canal, one of the world’s busiest chokepoints, is also taking steps to ensure readiness. Alexis Rodriguez, a specialist in environmental protection with the Panama Canal says that “we expect some non-compliance internationally and for that reason we have been training our inspectors and engineers to secure compliance.”

Jonathan Saul adds that complexities of enforcement can be seen between neighboring countries such as the United States, which has signed up, and Mexico, which is outside.

Namely, Mexico’s navy ships are still using dirty fuel as it would be allowed in its waters; it would also be allowed to sail into international waters as long as they remain outside the jurisdiction of the countries which have complied.