Sulphur Emissions

The start of 2020 marked the arrival of new International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations, which will see a significant cut to air pollution from ships. On 1 January 2020, the global upper limit on the sulphur content of ships’ fuel oil was cut from 3.50% to 0.50%.

This new limit will see an 85% drop in overall sulphur fuel emissions from ships internationally. This massive reduction in sulphur fuel emissions from ships will have positive impacts on human health and the environment around the world.

This initiative addresses four of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and is a great step towards delivering sustainable shipping for the future.

What does this mean for Tasmania?

The new regulations will improve the air quality of our ports and local communities around Tasmania. To achieve this new standard, vessels visiting our ports will be using a variety of methods including switching to low sulphur fuels or operating exhaust gas cleaning systems, also known as ‘scrubbers’.

Scrubbers remove sulphur oxides from the ship’s engine and boiler exhaust gases thus enabling vessels to continue using heavy fuel oil.

In use, some scrubbers can produce steam as a by-product which is then released into the atmosphere through the vessel’s exhausts. In some instances, this may look like excessive smoke.

The relevant regulatory body responsible for checking compliance with this sulphur limit is the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.


Each year AMSA inspects around 3000 ships of all types in Australian ports through a regime known as Port State Control to ensure that ships comply with relevant international conventions and requirements.

In addition, the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) monitor local air quality in the Port of Hobart, providing live data via its website. This ensures the public has access to real-time data on sulphur dioxide levels. Air quality monitoring data for Hobart is available here.

Find more information and keep up to date with the latest information about air-pollution requirements here.

A list of compliance checks completed by AMSA on cruise ships that are visiting Tasmania can be found below.

AMSA National Compliance Checks - Cruise vessels that are visiting Tasmania