IMO2020: ICS Chairman Calls For Action on Bunker Fuel Standards

Tuesday May 8, 2018

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) must "urgently resolve" a number of "complex practical issues" before the start of the 0.5% global sulfur cap in under two years' time, the chairman of shipowners' body, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), has said.

Topping the list of ICS concerns is bunker fuel compatibility as the lack of agreed standards for new fuels including fuel blends could lead to serious compatibility and mechanical problems.

"The overnight introduction of this regulatory game-changer will have enormous implications for ship operations," Esben Poulsson said. 

"It will be vital to get the implementation right if the unfair treatment of ships is to be avoided," he added.

With a question mark hanging over fuel availability, the expected teething problems when the rule starts raise questions over the availability of suitable bunker fuels with tramp shipping, in particular, in the spotlight as tramp ships do not always know their next port destinations long in advance.

"Oil refiners and bunker suppliers will need to ensure that compliant fuels are actually available for ships to purchase well in advance of January 2020," Poulsson said.

The IMO 0.5% sulfur cap rule comes into force from the start of 2020. While there are a number of ways for shipowners to respond to the bunker fuel regulation, including alternative bunker fuels and emissions abatement technology, to date many owners have adopted a wait-and-see approach to the impending change.