IMO 2020 Global Sulphur Cap

Supporting the shipping community in achieving global sulphur cap compliance

The introduction of the IMO 0.50% Global Sulphur cap will affect all sea-going vessels, which will be required to comply as of the 1st January 2020. This date marks the final legislative step of the MARPOL Annex VI Regulations implemented by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to limit air pollution from marine applications. The new limit represents a considerable change for fuel purchasers who will face a number of significant hurdles in looking to comply with the new regulation.

How Intertek Lintec can assist
In looking to comply with the 0.50% Global Sulphur cap fuel purchasers will have to entirely reconsider their individual compliance needs and, in particular, look at the implications of the significantly changed quality and handling characteristics of the range of new products to be supplied. Intertek Lintec have the expertise to support the Total Quality Assurance needs of the shipping community in a time of unprecedented legislative change.

Our global network of laboratories can offer full support to fuel purchasers in looking, not only to ensure compliance with legislative requirements but, to understand the individual characteristics of the fuel provided to ensure successful on-board management.  

Analysis of fuels in accordance with the ISO 8217 standard offers fuel purchasers assurances with regard to a range of different quality parameters to prevent exposure to unnecessary risk in relation to the on-board crew or the vessel itself.

For more information about our Total Quality Assurance approach, contact our experts to discuss your requirements.


The implementation of the IMO 0.50% m/m Global Sulphur cap on the 1 January 2020 is the latest step in a long line of global and regional regulatory changes that have been experienced by the shipping and bunkering industry during the last 15 years.

The full timeline, which began in May of 2005, has covered global and regionalised changes which have seen step reductions in permissible sulphur levels. At this current time vessels are limited to using fuels with a sulphur content of no greater than 0.10% m/m in all Emission Control Areas (ECAs) and no greater than 3.50% m/m under the requirements of the global sulphur cap. The 0.50% m/m sulphur limit - due to be implemented on 1st January 2020 - is the 'final' step of regulatory change based on the requirements of Marpol Annex VI.

However, the time line as provided in Marpol Annex VI has not been the only driving force in relation to regulatory change: individual countries, governments and territories have taken additional steps and implemented regional changes that have impacted upon fuel purchasers. From a legislative perspective it is clear that this has had a significant impact upon the availability and quality of compliant fuel.

Legislative change and the impact on the quality of fuel products available for purchase. The drive of legislative change over the years has seen a significant change in the number, and type, of fuels used for compliance purposes. As such we have seen substantial changes in the supply chain which have impacted upon the quality of product available for use, and in recent years the phrase “Legislative change has a significant impact on the quality of fuel products available for purchase” has resonated within the industry.

Intertek Lintec has seen significant fluctuations in quality – covering all aspects of quality – during the evolution of the legislative time line.

Major and minor fluctuations in quality give an indication as to changes in the supply chain and show how fuel suppliers change to accommodate demand for different types of fuel products, which was shown with particular clarity when looking at the quality figures taken from the Lintec testing program at the time of the step change from the 1.50% m/m sulphur limit in ECAs to the 1.00% m/m sulphur limit which came into force on 1st July 2010.

This particular change in acceptable sulphur levels saw a significant change in blending patterns to create sufficient compliant product for use. The increase in blending brought with it further opportunities to adulterate fuels with a wider range of blend / cutter stocks. This saw a significant negative impact as far as quality of product was concerned with higher levels of catalytic fines in 'ECA' fuels, greater instances of instability, problems with combustion and contamination.

The step to 0.50% m/m sulphur fuels as of 1st January 2020 is expected to reintroduce this type of wide scale blending and the inherent quality issues that these practices bring.

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