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Focus area 1.4: Contributing to and implementing international conventions

See performance table: Performance measure 1.4.1

Case study: Sulphur 2020

On 1 January 2020 the global limit on the sulphur content of fuel oil used by ships was reduced from 3.50 per cent to 0.50 per cent. Reduced sulphur emissions from ships benefits human health, by reducing cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and the environment, through improved air quality and reduced risk of acid rain.

AMSA has worked with the Australian maritime industry over several years to prepare for the change to low sulphur fuel oil. In conjunction with Maritime Industry Australia Limited, AMSA co-hosted nine stakeholder roundtable meetings from 2017 to 2020. These discussions kept industry informed on the IMO measures and guidance being developed to support consistent implementation of the limit globally. Importantly, these discussions also informed AMSA’s views when representing Australia in the IMO meetings that developed these measures.

To give effect to the new regulatory requirements, AMSA worked with the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to develop the necessary amendments to the Protection of the Seas (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983 and amended Marine Order 97 (air pollution). AMSA also updated the register of local fuel oil suppliers to identify the location of suppliers providing low sulphur fuel and to provide information on the Quality Management System used by suppliers, where available.

While there were concerns raised that there may not be enough low sulphur fuel to meet industry needs, the low rate of ship detentions and deficiencies seen in Australia and the limited number of Fuel Oil Non-Availability Reports (FONARs) submitted to AMSA suggests effective implementation and a relatively smooth industry transition to the new limit.

As an alternative to using low sulphur fuel oil, the use of an Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS) is permitted. AMSA continues to engage in discussions at the IMO to develop rules and guidance on the use of EGCS and to analyse the potential impacts of EGCS wash water discharges on the environment.

AMSA is commissioning research on possible long-term cumulative effects of EGCS discharges in Australian waters. To inform this work, AMSA has been collecting data from ships arriving in Australia that are using EGCS, including results from the sampling and analysis of EGCS wash water discharges. The outcomes of this research will inform whether any future restrictions on the use of EGCS in Australian waters may be required.