Refineries: could do better. File image/Pixabay.
Shipping has done much to be ready in time for the new rule on the sulfur content of bunker fuel but refineries could have done more.
The main concern for ship operators, according to the head of shipping organisation Bimco, is uncertainty over the supply of compliant fuel.
"I would have preferred to see the refineries acting much faster," Sadan Kaptanoglu was quoted as saying by news agency Bloomberg.
"Some [shipowners] will use low-sulfur fuels and some are trying new blend bunkers, but there are a lot of uncertainties," she said, adding that a large number of ships will be taken out of service for a few weeks during the fourth quarter of this year for cleaning in preparation for the new fuels.
But bunker industry commentators are more sanguine. Nigel Draffin has said the fuel will be there. Few ports are close to refineries so importing fuel is standard practice, as is blending fuel to get the right grade, he told a conference last month.
Refineries in the US are also seen to be one of the main beneficiaries of the IMO rule change as they are best positioned to meet the new demand.
However, commentators accept that the greatest uncertainty -- in supply and price -- is likely to appear in the first six months' of the new rule's operation. After that, markets should settle down to the new reality.