New IMO biofuels regulation may catch product tankers unawares

Athens: New IMO regulations for the carriage of biofuels may lead to a shortage of product tankers eligible to carry the cargo if shipowners are not ready to meet the new requirements, an environmental consultancy has said.

Oil discharge monitoring equipment onboard most existing vessels is not calibrated to handle biofuels, according to Rivertrace Engineering, and less than six months remains to bring existing systems up to date.

Amendments to IMO Resolution MEPC.108(49) will enter into force on January 1, 2016, after which all vessels that do not have type-approved equipment will not be eligible to carry biofuels and blends of biofuel and oil products.

“In a spot survey of tanker owners which we carried out recently, we found that most were not aware of the new regulations,” Mike Coomber, managing director of Rivertrace Engineering said. “They are sleep-walking into a situation in which the employment opportunities for their ships will become seriously jeopardised… Time is running out for many operators.”

Rivertrace says the problem is likely to affect much of the world’s fleet of 2,600 product tankers, though the exact number of vessels with soon-to-be outdated equipment is unknown.

“On straightforward upgrades, all that is likely to be required is replacement of the measuring cell and installation of a new circuit board. You can do this work at sea and, with travel time, it’s likely to cost about $10-12,000,” Coomber said, “but on pre-2005 units, you will basically have to start again. This could mean a new monitoring system, seven to ten days’ sailing time for installation, and a bill of $30-40,000.”

The issue is further complicated by the fact that there are only five international equipment companies capable of supplying system upgrades to vessels.

There are also a limited number of personnel who can fit the new systems, and it could be a logistically complex process to get these people on to the vessels to fit the systems before the ships have to leave port.


Holly Birkett

Holly is Splash's Online Editor and correspondent for the UK and Mediterranean. She has been a maritime journalist since 2010, and has written for and edited several trade publications. She is currently studying for membership of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. In 2013, Holly won the Seahorse Club's Social Media Journalist of the Year award. She is currently based in London.


  1. Is there any restriction of pct of bio in the fuel to classify it as bio fuel ?

    1. Dear Capt Bansal,

      Thank you for your question.

      Yes, between 1% and 25% FAME content.

      Kind regards


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