FONARs are filed to the IMO by flag states for publication in its database. Image Credit: Ship & Bunker
Just 55 fuel oil non-availability reports (FONARs) were filed to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) last year as shipowners switched to using VLSFO -- finally putting to rest concerns about availability of the new blends.
FONARs can be filed to a ship's flag state if it is unable to source compliant fuel at its next port of call, and the flag states pass them on to the IMO to publish in its database. The FONAR itself is not a guarantee of not being prosecuted by the flag or port state, but will be taken into account.
Concerns had been raised prior to the start of 2020 about the availability of new 0.50% sulfur fuels as the refining industry shifted its production, and some also raised the prospect of unscrupulous shipping companies using the FONAR system to get away with routine non-compliance without good reason.
"Through 2020, just 55 cases of 0.50% compliant fuel being unavailable had been reported in IMO's Global Integrated Shipping Information System," Roel Hoenders, head of air pollution and energy efficiency at the IMO, said in an emailed statement from the UN body on Friday.
"Given that more than 60,000 ships plied the world's oceans in trade last year, this was a remarkably low percentage of ships encountering difficulty in obtaining compliant fuel.
"We had a great deal of preparation during 2019 and before, from all stakeholders and all indications are that there have been no significant issues with supply of low sulphur fuel oil."
No VLSFO Safety Issues
The IMO is also keen to stress the safety record of the new fuels.
"Through 2020, and into 2021 to date, IMO has not received any reports of safety issues linked to VLSFO," the organisation said.
This runs counter to recent hostile coverage of VLSFO from Forbes magazine and other outlets, accusing the new fuels of causing engine failures and damage to ships.