Monday, October 8, 2018

The Incoming IMO Sulphur Cap Means Plot for the Future and Clean Those Fuel Tanks

Ship Owners Told to Prepare Implementation Plans
Shipping News Feature
WORLDWIDE – As is so often the case when we see a major change appertaining to maritime policy, the introduction of the sulphur cap regulations, which come into force from 1 January 2020, will see some ship owners properly prepared with all vessels compliant, whilst others, be they container carriers, cruise ships or tankers, will be scrabbling to ensure they are ready in time. Whilst some vessels are switching to LNG and others fitting scrubbers, many will simply switch to higher grade fuel, but there are still steps to take beforehand.

The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) will discuss proposals from Norway at their 73rd session in October covering implementation plans for ships to be developed according to agreed IMO guidance, and robust enough to ensure compliance by the due date. Among the proposals are for vessels to have a log of actions taken that records the first loading of compliant fuel, the fuel tank cleaning process and assessments of the new fuels on engines and machinery.

The proposals from Norway to be discussed in October also raise concerns with the threat of extra and detailed Port State Control inspections covering compliance with the new cap. Norway has now suggested that written ship implementation plans demonstrating preparations would help to create effective inspections in a transitional period. The suggestion here is that vessels without such plans could be subjected to more detailed inspections to verify compliance.

Industry experts suggest that some bunker suppliers may need a whole year to make changes in the supply chain to provide compliant fuels and this will further increase the pressure on ship owners. One company who, naturally, have a view of how to resolve the problems caused by the new rules is Aderco, a Canadian based group which has been supplying fuel additives for around thirty years.

CEO Olivier Baiwir is adamant that the deadline means owners must make those implementation plans a priority, and believes the concentration on scrubbers and blended fuels has taken the focus of the sector away from those essential physical preparations prior to the introduction of the cap. He explains:

“There is no time for ship owners, ship managers and operators to lose in getting their vessels ready for the IMO sulphur cap. The regulations come into force in little over 12 months but there have to be preparations well in advance of this to ensure compliance. We have been telling our customers that tank cleaning ideally needs to start no later than June 2019 to ensure they do not fall foul of the new regulations. This is the most pressing task before any new fuel blends can be introduced into their tanks and using a fuel treatment is the easiest, most cost effective and assured way of keeping a ship at sea and completing this vital task.

“The big issue with scrubbers is the time and expense in docking the ship, having a retro-fitted scrubber costing millions of dollars and being off-hire for weeks for this work. Our Aderco 2055G fuel treatment will flush out tanks and protect maritime diesel engines from cat fine issues, contamination, sludge development and corrosion. With this sort of protection as part of a process that also flushes out the tanks in preparation for the cap, it makes sense to see it as the best solution for ships not wanting to use scrubbers.

“The issues of engine damage to vessels caused by contaminated fuel from Houston and Singapore this summer highlights just how important this preparation process is to long-term viability. There is no guarantee as the cap kicks in that bunkered fuel blends will be perfect and in those cases it will be a fuel treatment that will protect engines and ensure no ships are stranded at sea.

“We have been talking in detail to our customers and advising them on 2020 implementation plans and how to carefully and methodically prepare their tanks and engines ready for the new fuels. There will be increased monitoring of ships, and increase in inspections and probably cases of non-compliance in the short-term simply because of the fuel on offer. With the right plan and the right fuel treatment this can be resolved with a planned approach that keeps vessels operating and generating income.

“There will undoubtedly be cases of a lack of compliant fuels in the early part of 2020 depending on bunkering and locations. If owners have cleaned their tanks with a fuel treatment and protected the engine, then they are in a better position to cope with the issues of potential damage from contaminated fuel. Whatever method they choose, it is vital they start work on a ship implementation plan now and choose the right fuel treatment solution to start cleaning those tanks.”

The cases which Baiwir mentions in Houston and Singapore received a mention in our story in August, which postulated that the damage caused to ships engines may have been either the quality of the bunker fuel or possibly the incompatibility of the fuel when mixed with the fuel currently in the tanks. Either way there are some large law suits resulting with damage to numerous vessels, and it would seem clean tanks will be a priority when switching fuels whatever the outcomes of those incidents, perhaps the first of many.