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Fuel EU Regulations create accountability risk for DoC holder

The implementation from 2025 on of the FuelEU Maritime regulation will present an accountability problem for shipping, according Hamburg-based maritime technology firm OceanScore.

It is currently the Document of Compliance (DoC) holder that will be held responsible for fuel selection and could therefore face penalties, but this is contrary to the principle of ‘polluter pays’ said Albrecht Grell, co-Managing Director of OceanScore.

There is an August 31st deadline for shipping companies to submit a monitoring plan to track the fuel type and consumption for each EU voyage for each vessel as required by FuelEU, which is intended to promote the adoption of zero and low-carbon fuels, as well as adoption of sustainable technologies such as wind power for fuel efficiency. The new regulation mandates progressive reductions in the GHG intensity of energy used by ships over 5,000 gt, compared to a 2020 baseline. They start at 2% next year and will rise to 80% by 2050. There are penalties for non-compliance.

However, the default responsible entity for FuelEU compliance remains the DoC holder – which OceanScore said was typically the technical manager. That business has operational responsibility for the ship and handles compliance with a wide range of EU regulations relating to maritime safety under the IMO’s ISM Code.

The DoC holder is also responsible for reporting of emissions and other voyage data under the EU’s MRV regime. This will underpin FuelEU, which apparently makes this entity well-placed to manage data collection and reporting processes for the new regulation.

However, said Grell, this posed the risk of significant cost exposure for the DoC holder in the event of heavy penalties due to non-compliance with carbon intensity targets. Those exposures would “far exceed the financial capacity of most ship management companies. They are in no position to carry the related burdens – neither financially nor contractually”.

Grell noted that from June 2026 the DoC holder will be liable to a penalty for each vessel with a compliance deficit, based on the FuelEU report due to be submitted in March 2026 for the preceding 12-month reporting period.

A similar scenario with the EU ETS resulted in an implementing regulation that designated the shipowner as responsible for compliance, with the option to reassign this responsibility to the DoC holder.

But the EU’s DG MOVE (Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport) has reportedly stated “the responsible entity will not change” as the EC’s powers to make such a change by an implementation regulation are limited under FuelEU.

One major problem, said Grell, was that “the DoC holder does not though have any influence or control over the type of bunkers used on a vessel or investments made and therefore, based on the EU’s overarching ‘polluter pays’ principle, should not be held accountable for the financial impact of those decisions”. He said that “rather, the consequences in terms of penalties should be allocated to the parties making such decisions, with either the shipowner or charterer responsible for fuel choice depending on the charter party, so this would require a similar mechanism to the EU ETS.”