IMO2020: Bunker Quality Concerns Valid Reason for a FONAR

Tuesday February 26, 2019

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has welcomed news from IMO's PPR6 last week that bunker quality concerns will "in exceptional circumstances" be a valid reason for a vessel to be issued a FONAR, but says this must not be treated as a "free pass" to carry or use noncompliant fuel.

While best practice is to always minimize commingling and mixing two HFO cargoes today can still result in unusable fuel, there has been an increased level of concern over the cross-compatibility of the new 0.50%S fuels to meet the upcoming IMO2020 global sulfur cap.

ICS says valid reasons for a quality-related fuel oil nonavailability report (FONAR) could include instances where the vessel cannot safely store, process and consume other compliant fuels without first cleaning out its tanks and fuel system of remaining, non-compatible fuel.

The higher price of any available alternative compliant fuels, including 0.1%S distillates, will not be considered as a valid basis for claiming non-availability of safe and compliant fuel, it adds.

If noncompliant fuel is to be loaded, it should be the minimum possible quantity.

FONARs are also only documentary evidence of efforts made to load compliant fuel, and do no absolve vessels from being issued penalties.

"FONARs remain a tool of last resort and are not something that a ship will be able to use routinely. The circumstances in which a FONAR can be used are very limited and conditions attached to their use will be strict.  Shipowners still need to remain focused on doing everything possible to ensure full compliance in 2020," says ICS Deputy Secretary General Simon Bennett.

"Above all else, the onus will be on the ship operator to provide documentary evidence that every reasonable step has been taken to ensure compliant bunkers will be available in the planned bunkering port."

The global 0.50% sulfur cap for marine fuel comes into force from January 1, 2020. A fuel oil carriage ban for ships not equipped with scrubbers is then set to come into force in March.