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Panalpina highlights ‘rocky path’ to IMO 2020 compliance

20 Jun 2019

The Panalpina Group, a provider of supply chain solutions, in a recent blog post says the path for ship owners, operators and carriers for complying with IMO 2020 low sulphur limit remains rocky even as regulators have already laid out rules for the change.

An extract from its blog post is as follows:

What’s with scrubbers
Scrubbers have come under scrutiny as an abatement technology. The main concern is the impact of open-loop scrubbers on the marine environment. Vessels using open-loop scrubbers discharge scrubber wastewater into the sea, whereas closed-loop or hybrid scrubbers allow for temporary storage and later disposal of scrubber wastewater.

In May, the Clean Shipping Alliance 2020 (CSA 2020), the industry association for scrubber manufacturers and users, started a campaign to convince port authorities not to ban the use of open-loop scrubbers within their waters. CSA 2020 has secured written no-objection letters from 20 seaports in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia.

Clearly not one of the CSA signatories is the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, which earlier banned the use of open-loop scrubbers in its waters, and recently classified residues from scrubber operations as “toxic industrial waste (TIW)”. Under Singapore’s Environmental Public Health Regulations, toxic waste must be handled by a licensed collector. This means that ships wishing to dispose their scrubber residues in Singapore will have to hire a licensed company to collect and dispose the waste material.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) is already undertaking a review of the 2015 guidelines on scrubbers, also known as exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS). The guidelines cover the testing, survey, certification and verification of scrubbers, as well as wastewater discharge standards, and are to be revised by 2020.

A recent IMO guidance mentions that as of March 1, 2020, the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil used by ships, will be prohibited. Would this in effect stop the booming scrubber retrofit market and instead push the ship newbuild industry and refiners to support compliant fuels?

Apart from scrubbers, the ocean freight industry is weighing compliance options and looking into alternative sources of fuel. One alternative is liquefied natural gas (LNG) or clean gas, which leads to negligible sulfur emissions when ignited. Despite project delays and budget overruns, the wave of LNG investments continues, but the LNG bunkering network remains underdeveloped. The other alternative is, of course, low-sulfur fuel. Here, there are concerns over high fuel costs and fuel availability, in the right quality in time.

Fuel quality – a burning challenge

Fuel quality is a burning challenge that has implications for global supply chains, both from a cost and disruptions perspective.

There is currently little standardization on a global basis regarding the composition and quality of low-sulfur fuels. The lack of fuel standardization could lead to compatibility and stability issues, because new fuel blends or fuel types can impact a ship’s machinery systems.

Back in March 2018, over 100 ships were affected by blended marine fuels that were bunkered in Houston, Panama and Singapore, and moving on to China. Vessels suffered mechanical issues ranging from clogged pipes and filters to engine breakdown and power loss, leading to operation disruptions and insurance claims worth millions of dollars. As Dr. David Atkinson, principal chemist at emissions monitoring specialists Parker Kittiwake puts it: “Without proper checks in place, the sharp rise in bunker-quality issues seen in recent months could be an indicator of what may lie ahead when the global sulfur cap comes into effect.”

The problem is that the main and auxiliary engines of today’s ships may originally have been designed to run on fuels that differ from newer fuels that comply with the sulfur cap. As fuel supply system provider Auramarine notes, ships with different engines and bunkers have the option of switching to low-sulfur fuel in port. However, if different fuels are blended, the resulting bunker fuels may not be tested or evaluated properly. These factors point to an increase in demand (and related costs) for onboard fuel compatibility testing in the run-up to IMO2020.

Related: CSA 2020: Some ports revoking earlier ban on open-loop scrubbers
Related: Argus Media: Singapore to ban discharge from open-loop scrubbers
Related: Singapore: MPA informs of reception facilities for scrubber residues
Related: IBIA: Work remaining on updating IMO guidelines for scrubbers
Related: IBIA: FONAR discussions at MEPC 74 show divergent views

Source: Panalpina
Published: 20 June, 2019


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