Some argue the current rules make it too easy for unscrupulous players to switch to noncompliant fuel when such behaviour is difficult to detect. File Image / Pixabay
A number of environmental groups have welcomed news that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has backed moves to ban the carriage of high sulfur bunkers as part of efforts to simplify enforcement of a global 0.50% sulfur cap on marine fuel that comes into force on January 1, 2020.
As Ship & Bunker previous reported, the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) says it is now "very likely" the ban will come into effect.
The ban has been supported by a wide range of organizations, including BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and Maersk Line.
Faig Abbasov, shipping officer, Transport & Environment
governments would better ensure no one can simply switch to the cheaper, dirty fuel once they leave port and are out of sight of the authorities
The current wording of MARPOL Annex VI only prevents the "use" of high sulfur fuel, meaning vessels could still carry noncompliant bunkers - a situation some argued was a "serious loophole" as it would be too easy for unscrupulous players to switch to cheaper, high sulfur bunkers during parts of a journey where such behaviour was difficult to monitor or retrospectively prove.
With a significant price differential expected between compliant and noncompliant fuel, it has also been noted that the incentive to cheat would be great.
"The ban on burning high-sulphur fuel that was agreed in 2016 had the right objective, but requires robust enforcement as the additional cost of compliance brings a significant incentive to cheat. By following through with a ban on carrying non-compliant high sulphur fuel, governments would better ensure no one can simply switch to the cheaper, dirty fuel once they leave port and are out of sight of the authorities," said Faig Abbasov, shipping officer at Transport & Environment.