Bunker Industry Prepares for More Rapid Implementation of New ISO Specifications

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Monday June 24, 2024

The newest edition of the ISO specifications for marine fuels -- the first full revision in seven years -- appears set to be taken on board by the market much more rapidly than in previous instances.

The new ISO 8217:2024 specifications were published at the end of May, replacing the previous set from 2017.

The new edition covers 0.50% sulfur fuels as a distinct grade for the first time since the IMO 2020 transition, as well as including grades with FAME content up to 100% to cover the burgeoning biofuel market.

While for previous editions it has taken several years for the new specifications to be used widely in bunker deals, market participants talking to Ship & Bunker expected a much faster turnaround for the new set.

"From a professional and personal perspective, I believe it's the better option to choose, from the buyer's point of view," Jeroen De Vos, head of global operations at Peninsula, told Ship & Bunker.

"It's suited to the current landscape of fuels, which was one of the biggest complaints when we shifted to the [0.50% sulfur fuels] -- that ISO 8217 was not really suited to cope with the VLSFO fuels.

"Wherever we can, we will supply according to the 2024 specifications."

Another large supplier suggested a slightly slower path to adoption, saying it would need to analyse the new specifications more closely before shifting towards using them.

"We are currently investigating the new standards internally, and will decide on implementation following further internal and external talks later this year."

Bunker Buyers to Drive Uptake

Chris Turner, bunker quality and claims manager at trading firm Integr8 Fuels, suggested bunker buyers would need to be the drivers of uptake of the new fuels.

"I am hopeful that owners will seize upon the material improvements provided by the 2024 specification, and as a result, it will achieve much more traction than the 2017 specification which was widely derided by many laboratories as being weak - a point picked up by many owners," Turner said in Integr8's bunker quality trends report earlier this month.

"That said, the only way the new specifications will be traded is if the end user demands them, which in turn will force the hand of the supplier to guarantee them, else we rinse and repeat.

"This will need a root and branch review of charterparty wording, adapting the term "latest version of ISO 8217 unless unavailable", which in my view is long overdue in any case."

Grace Period

But one factor that may cause delays will be the need to sell off cargoes bought under the previous specifications and not meeting the new standards, Jeroen De Vos argued.

"I would recommend the industry switch by default to 2024 spec," he said.

"However, there is a catch 22; it is a significant change compared to previous editions.

"For example, if you purchase basis the 2017 edition, it might not always be completely equal to 2024, due to the introduction of minimum viscosity.

"So, if we have a customer asking us to deliver a fuel at 380 according to the 2024 edition, it means that there is a minimum viscosity of 120cSt. If you have purchased fuel from a seller according to 2017, there might be a mismatch.

"So what we need to do as business leaders is ask what the industry requires, and accept that there will be a grace period in that overlap between the industry switching from the previous editions to the new edition."