The more than 170 member states of the International Maritime Organization, the global shipping regulator, have agreed to limit the amount of sulfur emissions from vessels.
The agreement, which comes into force in 2020, will limit the sulfur content in fuel to 0.5 percent, from the average 2.5 percent at present, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The move will mean additional costs to the shipping industry, which is currently experiencing a slump.
Analysts estimate the additional costs for the container shipping sector alone could be US$35-40 billion, according to Reuters.
Some players in the industry are also questioning whether oil refiners would have to undertake lengthy and costly investments to produce fuel with lower sulfur content, and if they could produce enough supply to meet the demand, the news agency said.
Environmental groups welcomed the decision and the 2020 start. The IMO had considered the option of delaying introduction of the regulations until 2025.
“This is a landmark decision and we are very pleased that the world has bitten the bullet and is now tackling poisonous sulfuric fuel in 2020,” said Bill Hemmings of campaigner Transport & Environment.
“This decision reduces the contribution of shipping to the world’s air pollution impact from about 5 percent down to 1.5 percent and will save millions of lives in the coming decades.”
The shipping industry is among the world’s biggest sulfur emitters, with sulfur oxide content in heavy fuel oil up to 3,500 times higher than the latest European diesel standards for vehicles, Reuters said.
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