US looks to phase in 2020 sulphur cap rules

The US government wants the 2020 International Maritime Organization 0.5% sulphur cap to be phased in, stating that this would protect consumers from potential sudden price spikes in heating and transport fuels, a White House spokesman said on Friday October 19th.

The IMO said last month that it would not delay implementation after some shipping groups, plus the Bahamas, Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands supported a phased-in implementation of the rules.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) meets this week at IMO headquarters in London, UK, where a discussion on the implementation of the 2020 sulphur limit is one of the topics for discussion.

“The United States supports an experience building phase, which has been proposed by several other countries, in IMO 2020 in order to mitigate the impact of precipitous fuel cost increases on consumers,” the White House said, adding that the administration was not seeking a delay of the rules, the spokesman said. A phase-in would mean that the rule would not have to be fully complied with until a later, unspecified, date.

Meanwhile, the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) has warned that bulk shipping, which represents more than 83% of global sea trade in cargo ton-miles, could have compliance problems come January 1st 2020.

UGS president Theodore Veniamis said that “we cannot turn a blind eye to the uncertainties regarding the availability and supply of MARPOL-compliant fuels which are also SOLAS compliant, safe, fit for purpose and available worldwide, particularly in the bulk/tramp sector”.

UGS noted that tramp shipping’s method of operation, with irregular itineraries did not allow for contractual arrangements to be made with refineries and bunkering facilities at specific ports.

It said that bulk/tramping shipping from January 1st 2020 probably would be compelled to bunker untested and diverse blends of fuel from around the world.

UGS also said that a lack of international standardization was adding to the problem. It said that the problems in the marine bunker supply chain must not be shifted onto crews and ship operators.