Seafarers concerned over IMO2020. File Image / Pixabay
Maritime professionals' union Nautilus International says the upcoming IMO2020 rule could crease "new wave of seafarer criminalisation" with its members concerned they could be scapegoated for problems relating to the 0.50% sulfur cap through no fault of their own.
"Penalties for non-compliance with the new 0.5% limit will include big fines or lengthy jail sentences in some countries, as well as ship detentions," Nautilus International said in a statement.
"Just over a year ago, in the first case of its kind, France fined the master of the P&O Cruises vessel Azura €100,000 for using fuel that was 0.18% over the Sulphur content limit, setting a precedent for criminalising masters for the quality of fuel on their vessels."
As recently highlighted by Maritime law firm Hill Dickinson, shipowners bear the ultimate responsibility for complying with the new sulfur rules, but there are many points in the supply chain where that could introduce accidental non-compliance.
The concerns come in sharp contrast to the more usual messaging over enforcement, with shipping industry bodies primarily worried it will be weak or nonexistent.
Nautilus International says its members are also concerned over the safety of the new fuels, and that the switch has created considerable extra workloads.
"Whilst we firmly support the moves to improve the shipping industry's environmental performance, it's clear that IMO 2020 is imposing a massive new burden on seafarers, both in terms of workload and in their exposure to potentially huge fines and criminal convictions," said Nautilus professional and technical officer David Appleton.
"It's essential that shipping companies do all they can to provide their masters, officers and crews with the training and resources required to ensure compliance with the new rules."