The shipping industry must prepare for a future with lower transport emissions. IMO 2020 will ensure that ocean transportation remains the most environmentally friendly and carbon efficient mode of transportation.


From 1st January 2020 onwards, all seagoing vessels will have to reduce sulphur oxides by 85%. The new regulation is set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting public health and supporting the environment.

The regulation will apply globally and throughout the industry to fuels used in the open sea. Vessels must use marine fuels with a maximum sulphur content of 0.5% compared to the current limit of 3.5%.


The prospect of IMO 2020 has resulted in a high level of uncertainty about availability of petroleum products and pricing. It will affect vessel operators, refineries, and global oil markets.

Vessel operators have the following choices to comply with the new IMO 2020 sulphur limits:

1. Use scrubbers (emission cleaning technology) to remove pollutants from the ship’s exhaust, whichallows them to continue using higher-sulphur fuels.

However, the process of installing scrubbers is limited and expensive due to space and capacity constraints and will increase operating costs. In addition, the price and availability of higher-sulphur fuels after 2020 remains uncertain. Amongst others, China and Singapore have already banned open- loop scrubbers in inland port waters and coastal shipping ECAs because the environmental benefits are questionable.

2. Switch to non-petroleum-based fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) for newer vessels with appropriate specifications However, the infrastructure to support the use of LNG is currently limited in scope and availability. Experts predict that by 2020 approximately 250-500 vessels, or a maximum of 10% of the global container fleet, will either be equipped with pollution cleaning technology or will be able to burn LNG.

3. Switch to a Very Low Sulphur Fuel (VLSF) that complies with the new rules (Most likely choice).

However, the cost, widespread availability and specifications of a new fuel for use in marine engines are still uncertain. The petroleum industry needs to adapt refineries and supply chains and is likely to pass these costs on to the market.


It is currently not possible to indicate an amount for the future price levels for VLSF. At this stage all we can predict is that it will cost more than currently available fuels.

Today’s forecast assumes a short to mid-term increase in bunker prices* between US$ 180 and US$ 400 per TEU. Due to the significant increase in bunker prices, every company involved in sea freight will be confronted with rising transportation costs. When IMO 2020 comes into effect transportation services may be disrupted as a result of inadequate fuel quality, which may lead to engine failures or insufficient availability of compliant bunker fuels.


According to current calculations, the expected increase in costs* will have a significant impact on the overall prices of container transportation and on freight rates. Whilst the implementation date for IMO 2020 is 1st January 2020, it is anticipated freight rates to increase as early as the end of the third quarter of 2019.

Therefore, freight agreements for both full and part load containers will include a price adjustment method also known as Bunker Adjustment Factor (BAF).

Through our strategic partnerships with ocean carriers from the main shipping alliances, as well as a network of independent overseas agents, FSEW always endeavours to negotiate mitigation of increases in freight, fuel and other surcharges. Our comprehensive carrier coverage provides our customers with multiple service options at market competitive rate levels.