Time is fast running out for implementation by IMO member states of the 0.5% global sulphur in fuel cap by 1 January 2020, Esben Poulsson, chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), has warned.
“While ICS fully supports the objectives of the IMO cap, the overnight introduction of this regulatory game-changer will have enormous implications for ship operations. It will be vital to get the implementation right,” Poulsson noted in the just published ICS annual review.
“As well as concerns as to whether sufficient quantities of compliant low sulphur fuels will be available in every port, there are a number of complex practical issues which IMO needs to urgently resolve within the next 18 months if the unfair treatment of ships is to be avoided,” Poulsson added.
In the absence of agreed standards for new fuels, including blends that will be compliant with the 0.5% sulphur limit but which may differ in their composition from port to port, ICS said it is very concerned this could lead to serious compatibility and mechanical problems.
ICS is anticipating initial “teething problems” in the first months of 2020 when suitable compliant fuel might not always be available in every port until it can be shipped in from elsewhere. This is more likely to be a significant problem for ships in tramp trades which call at diverse port destinations which are not always known long in advance.
If 0.5% sulphur fuel is not available in every port worldwide, ICS noted that ships may still bunker and use other compliant fuels, such as 0.1% distillate, but warned this raises other serious issues not least those relating to compatibility.
Poulsson emphasised: “It is vital that ship operators, charterers and fuel purchasers start making the necessary preparations to be ready for this major change. This also means that oil refiners and bunker suppliers will need to ensure that compliant fuels are actually available for ships to purchase well in advance of January 2020.”