Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Concerns Over Global Sulphur Cap Leads Shipping Industry Associations to IMO Submissions

Environmental Benefits Must be Tempered by Good Administration
Shipping News Feature
UK – WORLDWIDE – With respect to the forthcoming introduction of mandatory environmental legislation regarding the type and use of fuel oils in merchant ships, a group of international shipping associations, BIMCO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), INTERCARGO, INTERTANKO and World Shipping Council (WSC), is calling on the Member States of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to make progress on key challenges around the global sulphur cap to avoid compromising safety or unfairly penalising individual ships.

The trade associations have co-sponsored a number of submissions to IMO to help smooth the implementation of the global 0.5% sulphur in fuel cap, in advance of the critical meeting that will be held in London during the second week of July. These submissions include papers on:

  • a standard format for a ship specific implementation plan with many actions ships may need to consider for achieving compliance but also a call for a practical and pragmatic approach from IMO Member States when verifying compliance with the 0.5% global sulphur cap
  • safety implications associated with 2020 fuels and their respective challenges
  • a draft standard for reporting on fuel oil non-availability
  • proposals for amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to require sampling points for fuel oil
  • verification issues and control mechanism and actions

The group says that the shipping industry is fully committed to successful implementation of the global sulphur cap on January 1, 2020, and welcomes the significant environmental benefits this will bring, as agreed by IMO Member States and as re-confirmed by the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee in April 2018.

Through their own proposed standard implementation plan, ship owners and ship operators are committed to do what is necessary and what is under their control to meet the standards required. However the worldwide implementation of this game-changing new regulatory regime will be far more complex than the previous introduction of sulphur Emission Control Areas (ECAs) for shipping, not least because of the sheer magnitude of the switchover and the quantities and different types of fuel involved.

In 2015, ships trading in ECAs primarily changed to ISO 8217 distillate fuel oils. But in 2020, as well as using distillates to comply with the 0.5% sulphur cap, many ships will have to use blended fuel oils and new products which are outside of the ISO 8217 standard.

In addition to the current absence of global standards for many of the new blended fuels that oil refiners have promised, there are potentially serious safety issues, including those related to the use of compliant but incompatible bunkers. He group quotes as example, if bunkerage facilities turn out to be incompatible this could lead to loss of power on the ship.

The collaborators say the industry recognises that, in a legal sense, there will be no transitional period after 1 January 2020. Nevertheless something of this magnitude has never previously been attempted before on a worldwide basis. The industry representatives say the sector will do its utmost to be fully compliant to the extent that this is under its control, but safe and successful implementation will necessitate the supply of fuels, in ports around the world, which are compatible as well as legally compliant.

With the scale of the technical challenges involved and the likelihood of teething problems, the group insist it will be important for port state control authorities to exercise a pragmatic and realistic approach to enforce compliance during the initial months of the global switchover, which will come into effect at the stroke of midnight in just 18 months’ time.