Additional Sulphur Limit Guidelines Issued by the IMO

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As per a statement released on Monday by the International Maritime Organization, the global shipping regulatory body has issued additional guidance over the implementation of the lower 0.5% sulfur limit on bunker fuels that goes into effect from January 1, 2020, reports Platts.

​What is it?

According to a Port News article, the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), meeting for its 74th session (13-17 May), approved various guidance and guidelines to support the implementation of the sulphur 2020 limit from 1 January 2020.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has approved and adopted a comprehensive set of guidance and guidelines to support the consistent implementation of the lower 0.50% limit on sulphur in ships’ fuel oil, which will enter into effect from 1 January 2020. Related draft MARPOL amendments were also approved

Details of the Additional guidelines

  • The guidance includes sections on the impact of fuel and machinery systems resulting from new fuel blends or fuel types, as well as clarifications on control mechanisms and a standard reporting format for non-availability of fuel oil.
  • Member states also approved the 2019 guidelines for on-board sampling for the verification of the sulphur content of the fuel oil used in ships.

How will the guidelines help?

The additional guidelines seek to lift some of the uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the lower sulfur caps in the year ahead.

Scrubbers Uncertainty

However, on the topic of exhaust gas cleaning systems, also known as scrubbers, uncertainty remains.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee approved a new output on the “evaluation and harmonization of rules and guidance on the discharge of liquid effluents from exhaust gas cleaning systems into waters, including conditions and areas” in the 2020-21 biennial agenda of the Pollution Prevention and Response sub-committee.

There is significant variation on the guidelines surrounding the potential use of open-loop scrubbers among IMO member states, which the committee seeks to address, albeit in 2021 — one year after the lower sulfur cap goes into effect.

Open-loop scrubbers send water used to clean emissions back into the sea while closed-loop scrubbers retain the emissions for disposal at port.

However, countries remain divided over open-loop scrubbers due to environmental concerns over the discharge of polluted washwater into the sea.

As a result, some countries have started banning the use of open-loop scrubbers in their port waters, necessitating either the use of closed-loop scrubbers or lower sulfur marine fuels.

Varied Scrubber Restrictions

In January, the Port of Fujairah said it was banning the use of open-loop scrubbers in its port waterswhile Singapore is set to implement a ban from January 1, 2020 and China has already banned their use within its emission control areas covering inland waters and most of its coastline.

Other countries with bans or restrictions are India, Belgium, Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Ireland, Norway and parts of the US.

According to the latest data from DNV GL, the Norwegian accredited registrar and classification society, the total number of ships in operation and on order with scrubbers fitted rose to 3,286 in May.

Of that total, 2,419 are retrofits and 867 newbuilds, according to DNV GL data.

Some 80% of scrubbers fitted or to be fitted to ships are open-loop scrubbers, while 16% are hybrid scrubbers enabling ships to operate in both open and closed loop.

Hence, the potential ban on the most widespread type of scrubber in some ports continues to cause significant uncertainty on the shipping markets.

The appeal of scrubbers is that they will allow shipowners to avoid paying higher prices for compliant fuel and continue to buy high sulfur fuel oil, which is expected to price considerably below very low sulfur fuel oil.

Expert Panel for Scrubber Discharge Assessment

S&P Global Platts assessed FOB Rotterdam 0.5% marine fuel for Cal20 on the swaps forward curve at $528/mt Monday, compared with $329/mt for FOB Rotterdam for 3.5% fuel oil barges.

The MEPC also requested that an expert team be established to assess the available evidence relating to the environmental impact of discharges of exhaust gas cleaning system effluent, with a view to reporting its findings to the PPR.

IMO Overall Decisions in this MEPC Meeting

  1. Adopted 2019 Guidelines for port State control under MARPOL Annex VI Chapter 3, providing updated enforcement guidance for provisions including regulation 13 “nitrogen oxides” and regulation 14 “sulphur oxides and particulate matter”.
  2. Approved Guidance on indication of ongoing compliance in the case of the failure of a single monitoring instrument, and recommended actions to take if the exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) fails to meet the provision of the Guidelines.
  3. Approved Guidance for port State control on contingency measures for addressing non-compliant fuel oil. The guidance covers possible actions to be taken, following discussions between ship, flag State and port State, when a ship is found to have on board non-compliant fuel oil either as a consequence of compliant fuel oil being not available when the ship bunkered fuel oil or the ship identifying through post bunkering testing that the fuel oil on board is non-compliant.
  4. Approved the 2019 Guidelines for on board sampling for the verification of the sulphur content of the fuel oil used on board ships.
  5. Approved an MSC-MEPC circular on Delivery of compliant fuel oil by suppliers, subject to approval by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 101) in June. The draft circular says that Members States should urge fuel oil suppliers to take into account, as relevant: MEPC.1/Circ.875 Guidance on best practice for fuel oil purchasers/users for assuring the quality of fuel oil used on board ships; and MEPC.1/Circ.875/Add.1 Guidance on best practice for fuel oil suppliers for assuring the quality of fuel oil delivered to ships.
  6. Approved Guidance for best practice for Member State/coastal States. This includes best practices intended to assist Member States in carrying out their responsibilities under MARPOL Annex VI, to ensure effective implementation and enforcement of statutory requirements of that Annex. The guidance says that Member States/coastal States should consider actions deemed appropriate, under domestic legal arrangements, with respect to promoting the availability of compliant fuel oils, consistent with regulation 18.1 of MARPOL Annex VI; and Member States or other relevant authorities desiring to do so may decide to establish or promote a licensing scheme for bunker suppliers.
  7. The MEPC 73 in October 2018 had already approved Guidance on the development of a ship implementation plan for the consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI (MEPC.1/Circ. 878).
  8. A related MARPOL Annex VI amendment to prohibit the carriage of non-compliant fuel oil used by ships, which was adopted last year, is expected to enter into force on 1 March 2020.
  9. To support consistent implementation of regulation 14 of MARPOL Annex VI, MEPC approved draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to regulations 1, 2, 14 and 18, appendix I and appendix VI of MARPOL Annex VI, with a view to adoption at MEPC 75, with an expected entry force date of September 2021.
  10. The MEPC also approved a circular to encourage early application of the approved amendments to the verification procedures for a MARPOL Annex VI fuel oil sample.

The draft amendments cover:

Draft amendments to Regulation 2 Definitions, to include new definitions for “Sulphur content of fuel oil” – meaning the concentration of sulphur in any fuel oil, measured in % m/m as tested in accordance with standard acceptable to the Organization; “Low-flashpoint fuel”, to mean gaseous or liquid fuel having a flashpoint lower than otherwise permitted under paragraph 2.1.1 of SOLAS regulation II-2/4; “MARPOL delivered sample”, to mean the sample of fuel oil delivered in accordance with regulation 18.8.1 of MARPOL Annex VI; “In-use sample”, to mean the sample of fuel oil in use on a ship; and “Onboard sample”, to mean the sample of fuel oil intended to be used or carried for use on board that ship.

Fuel oil sampling and testing – Draft amendments to Regulation 14 Sulphur oxides (SOX) and particulate matter, to add new paragraphs related to in-use and on board fuel oil sampling and testing, to add new paragraphs to require one or more sampling points to be fitted or designated for the purpose of taking representative samples of the fuel oil being used or carried for use on board the ship. The representative samples of the fuel oil being used on board are to be taken in order to verify the fuel oil complies with the regulation.

Air Pollution: Appendix I amendments to the International Air Pollution Prevention (IAPP) certificate – Draft consequential amendments to update the IAPP certificate to add a reference to sampling points and also to note where there is an exemption to the provision for low-flashpoint fuel.

Fuel Oil Verification: Appendix VI Fuel verification procedure for MARPOL Annex VI fuel oil sample Draft consequential amendments to verification procedures, to cover verification of the representative samples of in-use fuel oil and on board fuel oil.

Key Issues Discussed by MEPC

  1. The MEPC discussed how to enhance the reporting of data, as required by MARPOL Annex VI regulation 18 on fuel oil quality and availability.
  2. The MEPC approved a draft MEPC circular on reporting of data related to fuel oil availability and safety in GISIS to promote greater understanding of the 0.50 % m/m sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI.
  3. The MEPC instructed the IMO Secretariat to review the current MARPOL Annex VI module in IMO’s global shipping information system GISIS (including: Regulation 18.1: fuel oil availability; Regulation 18.2.5: evidence of non-availability of compliant fuel oil; Regulation 18.9.6: failure of fuel oil suppliers to meet the requirements specified in regulation 14 or 18 of Annex VI.
  4. The MEPC instructed the Secretariat to update the existing tabs in GISIS for better functionality, including: updating the types of fuels and sulphur contents that are listed; allowing for multiple ports to be entered in a single entry; allowing searching by port or compliant fuel (adding a port list could assist with this); aligning with the Fuel Oil Non-availability Reports (FONAR); adding check-boxes on fuel oil quality; and improving the selection of regulations.
  5. The MEPC established a Correspondence Group, to be coordinated by the Secretariat, to report back to MEPC 75, to investigate the reporting of additional items on GISIS; and further usability improvements, if feasible and as appropriate.
  6. The Secretariat was also instructed to report to MEPC 75 a preliminary overview of data on fuel oil quality and availability currently available in GISIS as well as an overview of the current use of GISIS with reference to obligations under regulation 14 and 18.
  7. The Committee invited the Secretariat to advise MSC 101 on the progress made on the new GISIS module for fuel oil safety matters.
  8. Some ships use exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS) (“scrubbers”), accepted by their flag States as an alternative equivalent means to meet the sulphur limit requirement.
  9. The Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) is undertaking a review of the 2015 Guidelines on Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS). The guidelines include, among other things, washwater discharge standards.
  10. The MEPC approved a new output on “Evaluation and harmonization of rules and guidance on the discharge of liquid effluents from EGCS into waters, including conditions and areas”, in the 2020-2021 biennial agenda of the PPR Sub-Committee and the provisional agenda for PPR 7 (meeting in February 2020), with a target completion year of 2021. PPR 7 is expected to further review the documents that were submitted to MEPC 74 in relation to the newly approved output, with a view to refining the title and scope of the output and will report the outcome of its consideration to MEPC.
  11. The MEPC also instructed the Secretariat to liaise with the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Environmental Protection (GESAMP), an advisory body that advises the United Nations (UN) system on the scientific aspects of marine environmental protection.
  12. The MEPC requested that, subject to sufficient external funding being provided by Member States and other stakeholders, a GESAMP task team be established to assess the available evidence relating to the environmental impact of discharges of exhaust gas cleaning system effluent, with a view to reporting its findings to PPR 7.
  13. The MEPC note information provided by the Secretariat on the outcome of the monitoring of the worldwide average sulphur content of marine fuel oils supplied for use on board ships for 2018, based on three sampling and testing service providers. The worldwide average sulphur content (i.e. three-year rolling average) of residual fuel oil was 2.59% and for distillate fuel oil it was 0.08%.
  14. The MEPC approved, in principle, draft amendments to the 2010 Guidelines, as amended for monitoring the worldwide average sulphur content of fuel oils supplied for use on board ships. The draft amendments update the IMO sulphur monitoring programme to take into account the entry into effect of the 0.50% sulphur limit from 1 January 2020 and the potential types of fuel oils which will be used to comply with this limit and will be required.

Stakeholders Meeting in the Near Future

The IMO Secretariat plans to hold a further roundtable meeting with representatives from across stakeholders in June 2019 to review progress and share information.

Additionally, to provide an opportunity for wider stakeholder engagement, IMO plans to hold an “IMO2020” seminar at IMO in autumn, as by then there should be a clearer understanding of the availability of compliant fuel oil and some experience of implementation that can be shared. Further details for this seminar will be issued in due course.

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Source: Platts, Port News

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