The Advancement of the global sulphur cap is a change of a magnitude never attempted before on a global basis.

Under the new regulation, the limit for sulphur in fuel oil used on board ships operating outside designated emission control areas will be reduced to 0.5% from 3.5%. This is expected to significantly reduce the amount of sulphur oxides emanating from ships.

In order to comply with the upcoming regulations, shipowners can install scrubbers or use compliant fuels. Many shipowners have opted for open-loop scrubbers that use seawater as the process fluid and discharge the treated water overboard. However, the rest of the global fleet is expected to comply by using low sulphur fuels and marine gas oils.

There are a lot of concerns across the board when it comes to picking the right compliance option, their safety, availability, reliability and finally issues concerning the very policing of the compliance among shipowners.

Having that in mind, teething problems are likely to happen when IMO 2020 first comes into effect on January 1, 2020, Guy Platten, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), said in a message to the industry on the eve of the IMO 2020’s implementation. The industry has been working hard to ensure that we are ready for 1st January, but we still have concerns over safety and the availability of compliant fuels in every port worldwide. This is a pressing issue.

Shipowners rely on many other stakeholders in the marine fuel supply chain, particularly bunker suppliers and oil refiners, to ensure we are all able to fully comply with the new regulations. We need the supply side to fully contribute to a smooth changeover so that we do not have any incidents due to incompatible fuels and we can ensure safe operations for our seafarers.

Platten insisted that Port State Control authorities will need to provide consistency and a common-sense approach to enforcement during the initial weeks of implementation, provided shipowners can demonstrate they have done everything in their power to comply.

“I would like to think the vast majority of shipowner will fully comply, and the new regime will be strictly enforced by Port State Control authorities globally.

“What we want is to make sure it is a level playing field – any shipowner would want that – and there is a uniform approach to compliance around the world. If you have not got a level playing field and people are able to gain from the system, that’s not fair.”

The major change is both timely and needed, however, this does not mean it is without inherent risks.


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