Global low sulphur fuel transition

In October 2016, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed that from 1 January 2020 all ships and vessels will be required to use fuel containing no more than 0.50 per cent m/m sulphur.

To support this requirement, the IMO agreed that from 1 March 2020 all ships and vessels cannot carry fuel containing more than 0.50 per cent m/m sulphur. The carriage ban does not apply to ships where:

  • an approved exhaust gas cleaning system is fitted to the ship
  • the fuel is carried as cargo.

The limit on the sulphur content of fuel oil aims to reduce the impacts of sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions on the environment and human health.

Preparation for 1 January 2020

Australia actively engaged in the meetings of the IMO that developed measures to aid in the transition to low sulphur fuel. Our views were informed by discussions with the Australian maritime industry. 

These discussions helped Australian ships, ports, refineries and fuel suppliers to prepare for the global implementation of the regulation prescribed in the Protection of the Sea (Prevention of Pollution from Ships) Act 1983. 

All ship operators should have options and actions in place to ensure ongoing . Ship operators can check the register for contact details of local suppliers. 

If you are a fuel oil supplier and need to register, complete and submit the

Why was the sulphur content of marine fuel reduced?

Burning fuel containing sulphur releases sulphur oxides (SOx) into the air. In high concentrations, SOx contributes to poor health and can result in serious illnesses such as lung cancer and respiratory issues. High levels of SOx in the atmosphere can also lead to acid rain - damaging crops, forests and buildings - and cause acidification of soil and freshwater aquatic environments. 

Reducing the level of sulphur in marine fuel oil will help to improve air quality, particularly in coastal areas and reduce the concentration of SOx in the atmosphere.

You can read more about this on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) website.

Last updated: 12 August 2020