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EghtesadOnline: The National Iranian Tanker Company has signed an agreement with the Research Institute of Petroleum Industry on increasing the quality of bunker fuel and reducing the environmental footprint of NITC's tanker fleet.

The agreement was signed by NITC's CEO Sirous Kianersi and RIPI chief, Hamidreza Katouzian, late on Wednesday, Shana reported.

The collaboration is an effort to "explore new ways and means of improving the quality of bunker fuels and reducing pollutants", a joint statement said.

"According to an announcement by the International Maritime Organization, the amount of sulfur in bunker fuels should be reduced to 0.5% in three years. The deadline is looming fast. Therefore, we are joining hands with RIPI to meet the emission target," Kianersi was quoted as saying by Shana.

According to Financial Tribune, IMO in October announced it will impose a global sulfur cap of 0.5% on marine fuels starting from January 1, 2020. The current global sulfur cap on bunker fuel is much less stringent at 3.5%.

NITC operates nearly 70 ships of different sizes, one of the world's largest tanker fleet.

According to IMO, the cap will significantly reduce the amount of sulfur oxide emanating from ships and should have major health and environmental benefits for the world, particularly for populations living close to ports and coasts.

Bunker fuel refers to any fuel poured into a ship's bunkers to power its engines. Cargo ships typically burn heavy, residual oil left over after gasoline, diesel and other light hydrocarbons are extracted from crude oil during the refining process.

Large ships are often run on low quality fuel oils, such as bunker oil, which is highly polluting and has been shown to be a health risk.

Low-grade ship bunker fuel has up to 2,000 times the sulfur content of diesel fuel used in US and European automobiles.

A study in 2009 showed the world's 90,000 cargo ships register 60,000 deaths a year and costs up to $330 billion per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases.

--- Environmental Responsibility

"RIPI, as the research arm of this collaboration, is open to work alongside other research organizations and stakeholders," Katouzian said without elaboration.

The official also pointed to Iran's responsibility to try and comply with global environmental agreements, including bunker fuel regulations. Our country should try to play a role in this [reducing the pollution of bunker fuels]," he said.

But the government's efforts to align with international environmental agreements have been met with domestic opposition.

Iran is one of the 195 countries that signed a historic agreement in Paris two years ago to curb global emissions of greenhouse gases and limit the planet’s warming to under 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, by 2100.

However, some domestic groups opposing President Hassan Rouhani and his government have argued that Paris climate accord is "in conflict" with Iran's Constitution and development roadmaps.

RIPI NITC Iran Tanker Company National Iranian Tanker Company Iran Bunker Fuel Quality Iran Bunker Fuel