UGS: Bunker Suppliers Have a Responsibility for Safety and Environmental Consequences of IMO 2020 Fuels

Monday October 22, 2018

The Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) says bunker suppliers need to take their share of the responsibility for operational issues related to the supply and use of IMO 2020 compliant 0.50% maximum sulfur fuels.

The comments come amid growing concern over potential compatibility problems from such fuels, and particularly in the wake of the recent "bad bunker" problems witnessed in Houston, Panama and Singapore.

"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."

Unlike the traditional IFO fuels burned today, the VLSFO's expected in the post 2020 market are likely to be compositionally quite different from one another and will vary on factors such as geography and production process.

While buyers can minimize the risks by lifting bunkers from a consistent source, this is rarely practical for bulk/tramp shipping due to their inherently irregular scheduling.

"Bulk/tramp shipping which represents more than 83% of the world's seaborne trade in cargo ton-miles and in which Greek shipping is primarily involved is by nature itinerant. Its modus operandi does not allow for contractual arrangements to be made with refineries and bunkering facilities at specific ports, as may be the case in other shipping sectors characterised by the regularity of their itineraries and the frequency of their sailings," says UGS.

"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."

UGS President, Theodore Veniamis, warned that "IMO should not allow a trade-off between formal compliance and the safety of ships, crews and protection of the environment."