NZ to Join IMO Convention to Reduce Ship Emissions

The Government has today announced the planned accession to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) convention MARPOL Regulations for the Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships by late 2021.

MARPOL Annex VI, regulates atmospheric emissions from ships. It is also the platform for IMO action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships, with further measures set to be adopted in 2023.

The current sulphur limit of 3.5 percent by mass for marine fuels will drop to 0.5 percent when more stringent Annex VI regulations take effect globally on 1 January 2020. Compliance can be achieved by using low sulphur fuel or fitting an exhaust cleaning system known as a ‘scrubber’ to reduce emissions to a level equivalent to those from low sulphur fuel.

All ships ‘flagged’ to Annex VI party states visiting New Zealand will have to comply with the new regulations from that date.  Similarly, New Zealand-flagged ships travelling to states that are party to Annex VI will also have to comply.

Subject to the parliamentary international treaty examination process, and legislation changes necessary to implement the convention, New Zealand is expected to accede to Annex VI in late 2021.

On the basis of New Zealand acceding to Annex VI by late 2021, ships operating only in domestic waters will have until early 2022 to comply, as Annex VI would come into force for New Zealand three months after accession. This gives shipping and fishing industries sufficient time to prepare for the new regulations.

Consultation on MARPOL Annex VI: treaty to reduce air pollution in ports and harbours

In 2018/19 the Ministry engaged in consultation, to seek the views from the public and interested parties on whether New Zealand should sign up to an international treaty for the prevention of air emissions from ships.

This International Maritime Organization treaty, Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), regulates emissions that are harmful to public health, deplete the ozone layer and contribute to climate change.

Annex VI accession would have benefits for New Zealand. It would:

  • reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality around our ports and harbours
  • provide investment certainty to domestic ship owners and fuel suppliers
  • demonstrate commitment to the ‘level playing field’ for international maritime regulation that we benefit from as a trading and maritime nation.

Annex VI accession would also have costs. Its regulations would impose costs on ship owners and operators, and their customers. Ships burning heavy fuel oil would need to switch to low sulphur fuel.

Feedback received from submitters helped to inform the Ministry’s advice to Government on proposed New Zealand accession to Annex VI.


The Ministry received 49 Submissions in the consultation process.