EnvironmentGreater ChinaOperations

Asian shipowners call for level playing field when sulphur cap kicks in

The influential Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA) yesterday backed the IMO decision to implement a 0.50% sulphur cap on marine fuel with effect from January 1 2020.

At its 27th AGM in Hong Kong, the 17-member state association comprising some of the world’s largest shipowning nations, described the IMO initiative as “arguably one of the industry’s most defining moments”.

But the ASA also warned that much work had to be done at IMO to determine exactly how the sulphur cap will be regulated and enforced “so as to ensure a level playing field”.

With Chinese owners in strong attendance as well as big delegations from Japan, South Korea and Singapore, the mood among the 200 delegates was upbeat and many welcomed the IMO agreement.

The ASA, whose members now control around half the global merchant fleet, earlier held meetings of the group’s five special interest committees – looking at seafarers, insurance, safe navigation and environment, policy and recycling.

While other major issues in world shipping were discussed, the IMO sulphur cap on marine fuel was uppermost in many minds.

One immediate concern for Asian owners was the need for compliant and suitable fuels to be made widely available well in advance of the implementation date so that ships can bunker the new low sulphur fuel.

In a statement issued later, the ASA said: “Adequate fuel standards will be instrumental to achieve this.

In addition to owners, charterers and fuel purchasers will need to be made aware of the technical and operational issues.”

The ASA’s safe navigation and environment committee has been tasked with monitor developments at the IMO very closely.

It urged ASA members to work closely with their respective maritime administrations to ensure the views of the shipping industry were considered at IMO, including the upcoming inter-sessional meeting of the IMO Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention & Response (PPR) this July.

Among several other muted but simmering concerns around the IMO move, the ASA said it was concerned about “insufficient planning and lack of understanding of safety and health implications which may hamper a smooth operational transition plan that covers crew training, tank cleaning and, on some ships, equipment and/or tank modifications”.

This ASA meeting demonstrated how closely Hong Kong, in the shape of the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association (HKSOA) and Beijing are now working together on facing the challenges of global trade, international shipping regulation and a host of other issues blowing around the coat tails of the industry.

Another issue vexing the gathering was the need to uphold the concept of free trade, the basic premise of all shipping activity.

The ASA policy committee members railed about the rise of protectionism in the world including the new Indonesian cargo reservation regulation and a US bill to restrict the transportation of certain energy exports.

Yuji Isoda, chairman of the ASA policy committee, said: “The ASA has grave concerns regarding recent protectionist developments in the world.”

He emphasised the importance for the shipping industry to keep long-standing international practices and maritime free trade principles.

In a new departure for the ASA, the organising committee introduced a half day forum for all delegates which featured senior industry spokespeople discussing smart and autonomous shipping.

Speakers included Andy Tung, CEO of OOCL and Dr Fabian Kock, head of section safety and systems at DNV GL.

The meeting closed with Bhumindr Harinsuit, vice president of ASA and chairman of FASA (Federation of Asean Shipowners’ Associations) elected as the 28th ASA president. John Lines, chairman of MIAL (Maritime Industry Australia) was elected as the vice president of ASA.

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