ISO sulphur cap standards are a must as soon as possible, says Hammer

An expected guidance from the ISO on the new 0.5% fuels is needed as soon as possible, if not a final standard, according to Helle Hammer, chairperson of the Policy Forum Committee of the International Union of Marine Insurance (IUMI).

Speaking at Tuesday’s winter update from IUMI, Hammer said that a current problem was that the end-user was taking all of the risk, which IUMI found “unacceptable”.

“Refineries need to ensure that there are proper blends delivered. We need the ISO standard and guidance and we need it as soon as possible. Testing needs to take place before fuel is on board a vessel. We need proper fuel management onboard as well, because these fuels will not be treated the same so it will depend on what type of fuel you have on board”, said Hammer.

She said that there were 200 to 250 cases of contamination that she knew about, where the fuel is on board and operating before test results came through. We’ve heard numbers up to 1,000. Many of them will not be reported into the insurance market because they will be below a deductible. But the potential for a big one is there, with all of those, and that is what we really want to prevent from happening”, she said.

One reason for the ISO guidelines and standards to arrive as soon as possible was that much would depend on refineries’ configurations. Two refineries could be producing fuel that is compliant with the MARPOL 2020 regulations, but not compatible with each other. ” Safety challenges due to differences of composition and blending will be something that we need to tackle going forward. This is recognized by the IMO and they are working on further measures to enhance the safety, but there is a target completion in 2021 for that work”, said Hammer.

IUMI said in a statement prepared for the media that it was concerned at the increase in the number of incidents of fuel contamination. It suggested that the current situation where fuel testing was undertaken by the end-user, but this ought to change, IUMI suggested.

“Since governments oblige ship operators to burn certain grades of fuel, IUMI believes refineries should be compelled to conduct testing and confirm the delivery of non-contaminated fuel. If action is not taken to ensure reduced contamination, IUMI is concerned that the shipping industry will be faced with additional expense which insurance will not automatically cover,” IUMI said.

IUMI observed that low-sulphur fuel was not globally consistent and that it often contained a high level of cat fines, which onboard systems and processes often fail to filter out. Differences in flashpoint and combustibility were also evident.

IUMI is calling for regulation that obliges refineries to guarantee the quality of their fuel and for vessel operators to enhance their systems, processes and training to protect their vessels against the potential impact of using low sulphur bunkers.