Five shipping industry trade organizations are calling
on the member states of the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization
(IMO) “to make progress on key challenges around the global sulfur cap to avoid
compromising safety or unfairly penalizing individual ships.”
After Jan. 1, 2020, ships will have to either use fuel with
a sulfur content of less than 0.5 percent or equip their ships with scrubbers
to remove sulfur from engine exhaust.
The five groups making the request are BIMCO, the International
Chamber of Shipping and three organizations that represent different segments
of the shipping industry: the World Shipping Council, which represents liner
companies; INTERTANKO, which represents independent tanker owners; and
INTERCARGO, which represents owners of dry cargo ships.
In a statement,
the trade associations said while the shipping industry is fully committed to
successful implementation of the global sulfur cap when it goes into effect on
Jan. 1, 2020, “the new regulatory regime will be far more complex than the
previous introduction of sulfur emission control areas (ECAs) for shipping, not
least because of the sheer magnitude of the switchover and the quantities and
different types of fuel involved.”
ECAs are areas around the world, such as the coastline of the U.S.
and Canada, where ships are already required to use fuel with a maximum sulfur
content of 0.1 percent.
The shipping groups noted that in companies trading in ECAS
primarily use distillate fuel oils, “but in 2020, as well as using distillates
to comply with the 0.5 percent sulfur cap, many ships will have to use blended
fuel oils and new products.”
“On top of the absence of global standards for many of the new
blended fuels that oil refiners have promised, there are potentially serious
safety issues, including those related to the use of compliant but incompatible
bunkers. As an example, if bunkers turn out to be incompatible, it could lead
to loss of power on the ship,” they said.
They also noted, “In a legal sense, there will be no transitional
period after 1 January 2020. But something of this magnitude has never
previously been attempted before on a worldwide basis. The industry will do its
utmost to be fully compliant to the extent that this is under its control. But
safe and successful implementation will necessitate the supply of fuels, in
ports around the world, which are compatible as well as legally
“With the scale of the technical challenges involved and the
likelihood of teething problems, it will be important for port state control
authorities to exercise a pragmatic and realistic approach to enforce
compliance during the initial months of the global switchover, which will come
into effect at the stroke of midnight in just 18 months’ time.”
The five organizations said they have co-sponsored a number of
submissions to IMO to help smooth the implementation of the sulfur cap. The
International Chamber of Shipping has put a link to those submissions on its website.