Both IMO as well as the shipping sector, including refineries and fuel (bunker) suppliers have been rapidly preparing for the upcoming 2020 sulphur cap, keeping in mind that it is about two months away; Thus, the IMO conducted a roundtable meeting to discuss the future of shipping fuels, the availability of compliant fuel and the FONAR.

In light of the preparations, the IMO 2020 Symposium meeting, conducted in October, also gathered shipping stakeholders to discuss issues of the sulphur cap and confirmed a general readiness to meet the sulphur 2020 requirement.

Overall, the IMO 2020 sulphur cap states that the global limit for sulphur in fuel oil used on board ships will be reduced to 0.50% m/m (mass by mass). Within designated emission control areas (ECAs), the limit will remain at 0.10%.

The new limit will be mandatory, under a regulation in Annex VI of IMO's MARPOL convention for the prevention of pollution from ships.

Papers issued to guide industry on the sulphur cap

  1. To better assist the shipping sector for the transition, the IMO issued an infographic summarizing the key benefits associated with the 2020 sulphur cap.
  2. IMO 2020 ICS Guidance on compliance for shipping companies and crews
  3. Joint Industry Guidance on supply and use of 0.50% sulphur marine fuel
  4. CIMAC Guideline: Marine fuel handling in connection to stability and compatibility

IMO states that

The roundtable meeting saw increasing confidence towards consistent implementation resulting from significant efforts to date by all stakeholders and emphasized the continued need for awareness-raising efforts as the deadline looms.

Availability of compliant fuel oil
In the majority, the industry supports that fuel availability is a sure thing, with some exceptions. There was some indication that heavy fuel oils continued to be loaded.

Information on compliant fuel oil specification
The IMO Secretariat supported the sharing of information on any testing of fuel oils meeting the 0.50% limit.

Enforcement and compliance
In this part, the stakeholders highlighted the importance of port State control, which will play a key part on ensuring a level playing field and to ensure that ships would not be disproportionately impacted.

In the meantime, some attendees shared their second thoughts on the preparedness of the PSC regimes to enforce the 2020 sulphur limit, proposing a specific training that could be conducted to ensure the support port State control for the implementation of MARPOL Annex VI could be provided. Consequently, an IMO Workshop for PSC MoU/Agreement Secretaries and Database Managers will be convened in 2020, which would provide a further opportunity to promote the harmonization of enforcement measures.

Fuel oil non-availability report (FONAR)
The roundtable also discussed about possible inconsistent approaches in relation to the fuel oil non-availability report (FONAR). Accordingly, the FONAR is not to be an exemption, but it will be a standardised template so that stakeholders will use to report non-availability of compliant fuel oil.

The IMO Secretariat reminded participants that IMO has issued the 2019 Guidelines on consistent implementation of 0.50% sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI (MEPC.320(74) here), which includes a standardised FONAR.

The attendees agreed on the need to continue raising awareness about the sulphur cap 2020 regulation to all stakeholders, including the IMO Secretariat, PSC regimes, Member States, shipowners/operators, charterers, fuel suppliers and others, in order to ensure consistent implementation of the sulphur 2020 limit by 1 January 2020.

In this regard, it was agreed that the IMO Secretariat would communicate to all relevant parties on the continuing need to prepare for the entry into force of the sulphur limit.

Concluding, amongst the participants on the roundtable were representatives from IMO Secretariat and: International Chamber of Shipping (ICS); International Organization for Standardization (ISO).; BIMCO; International Association of Classification Societies (IACS); Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF); International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO); International Association of Dry Cargo Shipowners (INTERCARGO); IPIECA; The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST); International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA).

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