Maritime Safety and Protection of the Marine Environment

The IMO decision in October 2016 to implement a 0.5% cap on sulphur content in marine fuel (outside of Emission Control Areas) as from 1/1/2020 has given rise to legitimate concerns. These include the availability and suitability of scrubbers, which will have been fitted only on a small percentage of the world fleet by 2020, as well as the refining industry’s ability to supply the market with sufficient quantities of quality compliant low sulphur fuel. However, the most pressing challenge currently faced by the industry is safety-related. The switch to low sulphur fuels, especially to blends of different fuels, raises several issues related to stability, compatibility as well as flashpoints lower than the minimum SOLAS requirement.

Moreover, the enforcement of the upcoming sulphur limits in a manner that will ensure uniformity and a level playing field will pose further challenges.

In this regard, the UGS supports a smooth transition to the new marine fuel sulphur limits on the high seas, which will grant the shipping and refining industries the flexibility they need to iron out these outstanding issues.

Additionally, MEPC 72 approved draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI prohibiting the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil for combustion purposes for propulsion or operation onboard a ship. These amendments will be forwarded to MEPC 73 for adoption.

The challenges stemming from the imminent application of the 0.5% cap on sulphur content in marine fuel call for a flexible approach that will ensure a smooth transition on the road to full compliance.