The Union of Greek Shipowners warmly welcomes the decision by the recent IMO Intersessional Working Group (London, July 9-13, 2018) to take into account several valid safety concerns linked to the transition to new low-sulphur fuels, especially blended fuels. These are expected to be widely used to ensure compliance with the 0.5% global sulphur cap for marine fuels, which enters into force on 1st January 2020.
These safety concerns relate to fuel stability, incompatibility between different batches of blended fuels, lower flashpoints than the minimum required by SOLAS, inadequate safety margins for cat fines and extended ignition delays due to poor combustion characteristics, to name but a few. Failure to address these challenges would result in a real and major threat to ships’ crews and machinery and, by extension, to the marine environment. Moreover, as the 2020 deadline is fast approaching, safety-related concerns are compounded by serious doubts over the worldwide availability of safe compliant fuel.
A Marshall Islands submission, co-sponsored by Liberia and international shipping organizations, called on the IMO to address the significant challenges associated with transitioning to bunker fuels of low-sulphur content and received the support of many IMO member states and observer organizations.
Commenting on the decision, the President of the Union of Greek Shipowners Mr. Theodore Veniamis said: “The new rules are a game changer for shipowners, operators and refineries. There are many variables that may impact on the consistent compliance by ships, which means that the implementation of the new rules will not be straightforward. The IMO has demonstrated pragmatism in supporting a practical and realistic approach going forward.”
The safety concerns identified during the Intersessional Working Group deliberations this week will be forwarded to the appropriate IMO bodies for due consideration. The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) in October 2018 and the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 100) in December 2018 will now look into possible ways to address the highlighted challenges.
“Greek shipowners are actively working towards compliance with the requirements of the new IMO 0.5% sulphur limit as of 1st January 2020. It is, however, crucial that related stakeholders also exert all efforts to provide the shipping industry with the necessary means for the achievement of this goal. It is equally crucial that new bunker fuels do not jeopardise the safety of life at sea. Marine fuels used post-2020 should not only be compliant in terms of sulphur content, but must also be fit for use, without compromising the ships’ and crews’ safety” Mr. Veniamis concluded.