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IMO 2020: Is not knowing worth the wait?

This intriguing and no less interesting question is suggested by Jack Jordan, editor of Platts Bunkerworld in his recent remarks on the company’s website relating to long wait the shipping industry is subject to before it knows for certain what kind of fuel it will be using in 2020. Politely but with a subtle tone of resentment if not criticism, Jordan says, “It is remarkable shipping industry is having to wait this long to learn about the fuel it will be burning in 2020.” All the same we have been told shipping accounts for 90% of global trade.

To bring out the significance of the extent of ‘wait’ by the shipping industry, Jordan in a very harmless way says, ‘ Try going to the trucking or aviation industries to tell them  they will have to use a new fuel in less than two years but more information won’t be available until months before the deadline. The reception would be less than friendly.’

Fine euphemistic expression.

‘The fuel oil the shipping buys at the moment is worth less than the crude from which it is refined’, Jordan points out adding ‘ We are used to hearing a lot about the supply side of that equation—the struggles refiners are going through to cope with the main source of their fuel oil demand disappearing overnight.’

But is not shipping also a ‘key customer’? he asks.

Operational issues in 2020 from mechanical failures related to the fuel changeover could see bottlenecks emerge, for example, in the Suez or Panama canals and a subsequent squeeze on  global trade, with the consumer, ultimately, picking up the tab.

‘Then, the shipping industry’s concern may start getting more attention,’ says Jordan.

Quite so, observes Ship & Bunker.  But, until them, let us just wait-and-see.


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