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Greece: Bunker contamination, availability concerns ahead of IMO 2020

22 Oct 2018

The Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) says it remains “firmly committed” to the successful transition to the 0.5% global sulphur cap in marine fuels by 2020 but remains concerned on several issues related to the development.

“We cannot turn a blind eye to the uncertainties regarding the availability and supply of MARPOL compliant fuels which are also SOLAS compliant, safe, fit-for-purpose and available worldwide, particularly in the bulk/tramp sector,” states President of UGS Theodore Veniamis.

“The option of achieving compliance through continued combustion of high-sulphur fuels with installed scrubbers, which in any case has questionable net environmental benefit, is the exception to the rule, especially in this sector due to its fundamental operational characteristics.

“The ultimate aim should be that the industry in its totality uses safe and suitable, low-sulphur marine fuels. The UN IMO should not allow a trade-off between formal compliance and the safety of ships, crews and protection of the environment.”

According to UGS, the bulk/tramp shipping sector represents more than 83% of the world’s seaborne trade in cargo ton-miles and its modus operandi does not allow for contractual arrangements to be made with refineries and bunkering facilities at specific ports.

Moreover, a lack of international standardization – ISO standards for the new type of compliant fuel will not be ready for January 1st 2020 – only adds to the complexity and compounds the problems.

Post 2020, ships involved in bulk/tramp shipping will, in all likelihood, have to bunker untested and diverse fuel blends from different sources around the world, which are especially problematic, as the surge of fuel contamination instances has already indicated.

“The stakeholders of the bunker supply chain have recognised the potential safety and operational issues related to the supply and use of 0.5% maximum sulphur fuels and are proposing the issuance of extensive guidance for ship operators and crews,” says UGS.

“However, the responsibility of the marine bunker supply chain cannot be shifted onto ship operators and crews. Ship operators and crews should not be held disproportionately responsible for the safety and environmental consequences of the provision of unsafe or unsuitable fuels.

“The UN IMO shipping industry guidance is of course welcome but it is not enough; it needs to be coupled with an institutionalised process which will ensure the proper management of the 2020 sulphur cap issues, taking into account all related parameters, the breadth and width of which are yet unknown.

“The proposal made to the forthcoming meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC73) by flag states representing more than 46% of the world’s shipping capacity along with international shipping associations for the introduction of an Experience-Building Phase contributes to this aim.”

Related: IMO MEPC 73rd session to start (22-26 October)

Published: 22 October, 2018

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