International law firm Clyde & Co LLP on Tuesday (28 March) published a market insight advising bunker suppliers and stakeholders in the bunkering industry to prepare in advance for recent amendments to Regulation 4.2.1 of Chapter II-2 of SOLAS, which is expected to come into effect on 1 January 2026:
By Puneet Sareen, Master Mariner
It is a known fact that off-specification or contaminated bunkers can disable vessel engines, endangering vessel, crew, and cargo on board and giving rise to significant losses for all parties to the maritime adventure.
The supply of such bunkers has plagued the industry for some time, with the bunker contamination episodes in Houston in early 2018 and Singapore in 2022 being two recent instances.
Besides the presence of contaminants which can create problems for the safe consumption of bunkers and cause damage to the propulsion machinery, the carriage and consumption of bunkers with a low flashpoint presents an entirely separate safety hazard.
Typically, bunkers with a flashpoint below 60˚C are deemed unsafe.
The usage of marine fuels below 60˚C is already prohibited under the International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea (“SOLAS”).
However, until now, there has been no specific provision within SOLAS against the supply of such bunkers. This lacuna has been the subject of discussion at IMO sub-committees for some time.
Regulation 4.2.1 of Chapter II-2 of SOLAS
After due consideration of the lack of any regulatory framework in the bunker industry to control the supply of such fuels, recent amendments to Regulation 4.2.1 of Chapter II-2 of SOLAS have been introduced.
These amendments are expected to come into effect on 1 January 2026.
The amendments aim to ensure that the bunkers are safe by requiring that:
Although some years away, it would be advisable for bunker suppliers and other stakeholders in the bunkering industry to prepare in advance for these amendments, reviewing their practices and ensuring that their bunker delivery notes will fall in line with the new requirements due to take effect in 2026.
Photo credit: Shaah Shahidh on Unsplash
Published: 29 March, 2023
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