Customs|International Transport

IMO 2020 will be implemented within 50 days.

IMO 2020 in the global maritime industry

The World Maritime Organization (IMO) has established that, from 1 January 2020, the global limit for the sulphur content of fuel oil used on ships should be 0.50% by mass/mass. The current figure, in force since 2012, is 3.50% mass/mass and applies to all fuel oil used on board, both main and auxiliary engines and boilers.

The IMO 2020 date is marked in red on the calendar for all shipping companies, consignees or Customs. This is also the case of Operinter, which, less than 50 days before the measure becomes effective, is informing customers and partners about environmental regulations.

Economic impact

The new low sulphur fuel has a price significantly higher than that used to date, which means that the costs for shipping companies will increase, and therefore those of the entire logistics chain. These costs will be applied without exception to all maritime shipments, and therefore an increase in prices is expected in import/export operations, whether full containers or groupage, from that same date.

According to estimates by some investment funds, the overall economic impact of this adaptation will exceed 240 billion dollars (more than 217 billion euros). It should be borne in mind that more than three million barrels of high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) are currently consumed and many oil companies have already announced that they will supply the new fuels in the main ports.


The implementation of IMO 2020 – an organisation composed of 174 Member States – falls within the competence and responsibility of the State Administrations and should be treated as a priority. As far as sanctions are concerned, the IMO envisages that they will be established individually by each of the parties to the MARPOL Convention as flag States and port States.

Controls and exemptions

Vessels having fuel oil for use on board vessels shall obtain a fuel delivery note, which shall state the sulphur content of the fuel oil supplied. Each State must issue to ships an International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate (IAPP Certificate). The title includes a section indicating that the ship uses fuel oil with a sulphur content not exceeding the applicable limit value, as should be stated in the fuel delivery notes.

The new sulphur regulation provides for derogations in situations necessary to safeguard the safety of the ship, human life at sea, or in the event that a ship or equipment is damaged.


The shipping fleet can also adapt to IMO 2020 by opting for liquefied natural gas (LNG) and using this fuel in their engines. It is followed by around 250 vessels and an upward trend.

Another alternative is to continue using HSFO fuel but with scrubbers. According to some estimates some 4,000 ships will opt for this system. The so-called scrubbers, which can be closed or open circuit, is an alternative, however, which has been banned in some countries such as China.

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