However, there are concerns that the regulatory change does not make this clear enough. Moreover, there are questions about how potential non-availability situations will be dealt with once it becomes an offence not just to use, but to carry non-compliant bunkers on vessels without valid exemptions.

There were long discussions at PPR 5 about, whether the amendment has to make it more explicit that high sulphur fuel bunkers can still be carried as cargo, and be carried by ships which have approved technology or exemptions to trial such technology, and whether it will be necessary also to make an explicit reference to the non-availability clause in Regulation 18.2 of MARPOL Annex VI.

Regulation 14 of MARPOL Annex VI does not allow the use of fuels with higher sulphur content than the applicable limit. The text will be changed to prohibit both use and carriage of non-compliant fuel.

However, Regulation 4 of MARPOL Annex VI allows ships to use higher sulphur fuel with abatement technology such as scrubbers, while Regulation 3 allows ships to be specifically exempted while trying abatement technology.

The proposal from Norway and the Cook Islands to PPR 5 argued that there was no need to make specific reference to equivalent arrangements approved in accordance with Regulation 4.1 or exemptions issued under Regulation 3.2 in the amended text as they are currently not referred to in Regulation 14, even if they might be applicable.

There was not full agreement on this, as many felt this new carriage prohibition is materially different from the existing prohibition to use bunkers above 0.50% sulphur after 1 January 2020, and that it would be wise to make explicit references under the amended Regulation 14 to Regulation 3, 4 and also to Regulation 18 regarding non-availability situations.


As a result, concerns were raised, saying that it was clear that the carriage ban only applies to high sulphur bunkers carried for combustion purposes, and not to cargo. PPR 5 agreed on the following amended text for Regulation 14, which is expected to take effect from 1 March 2020:

“The sulphur content of any fuel oil used or carried for use on board ships shall not exceed 0.50% m/m.”

Despite this, IBIA will ask for a small modification to this text to make sure it doesn’t unintentionally prevent bunker barges from carrying fuel oil exceeding 0.50% sulphur for delivery to ships with scrubbers.