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Air Pollution in Shipping: The Further Reduction of SO2 Emissions 2020

(Dr Sean Xerri de Caro – GTG Advocates)

As of January 2020, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), in line with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) will set new limits on the sulphur content in fuel oils on board vessels.

Even though ships are known to be some of the largest and most reliable machines on the planet, they emit around 1000 million tonnes of C02 annually and are responsible for approximately 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. One of the main and most harmful chemical pollutants in this field is Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), which is regularly emitted into the atmosphere as a result of the combustion of fuels containing sulphur. Between 2007 and 2012, the IMO reported that approximately 11.3 million tonnes of Sulphur dioxide were generated annually by the maritime transport industry.

Sulphur dioxide is a pollutant that contributes to acid deposition, which in turn, can lead to potential changes in soil and water quality. The subsequent impacts of acid deposition can be significant, including adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems in rivers and lakes and damage to forests, crops and other vegetation. S02 also contributes to the formation of particulate aerosols in the atmosphere which can be tremendously harmful to human health and which may cause respiratory and cardiovascular complications whilst also reducing one’s life expectancy by up to two years. Click here to read more.