On a recent information-gathering trip to Copenhagen, IBIA Director Unni Einemo found that most shipping and bunkering companies had experienced a ‘surprisingly smooth transition’ for IMO 2020, but there was uncertainty on how to deal with sulphur test results marginally above the 0.50% limit.
Writing on the IBIA website yesterday (22 January), Einemo explained that: ‘The problem lies in the difference between commercial contract interpretation around test precision principles and the MARPOL Annex VI sulphur verification procedures approved by the IMO for authorities to use when obtaining samples from ships to check for compliance.
‘One reason for fuel as supplied to be slightly above the 0.50% sulphur limit,’ continued Einemo, ‘could be that shore storage tanks or bunker barges have not been adequately cleaned when the usage has been switched from HSFO to VLSFO. Likewise, if an authority takes an in-use sample from a ship and it is found to be above the limit (note: up to 0.53% is acceptable for in-use samples), this could be due to inadequate cleaning of HSFO residues from the ship’s fuel tanks. Sulphur limit exceedances caused by inadequate tank cleaning should disappear over time as tanks previously used for HSFO are eventually thoroughly flushed through.’
Einemo added that IBIA is advising the supply side of the industry that ‘in order to be 95% certain that they will never exceed the sulphur limit, they need to use the limit -0.59R as the blend target’.
Encouragingly, Einemo reported that the companies IBIA met in Copenhagen ‘had not experienced major issues with the availability of compliant fuel, although shortages have been evident in some regions’.
‘Regarding quality,’ said Einemo, ‘IBIA was happy to hear that the companies we spoke with have not had the operational nightmare that have been predicted due to fuels with serious stability issues or due to mixing incompatible fuels onboard the ship. VLSFO testing off-spec for sediment, an indicator of poor fuel stability, has been reported in some ports during December and January, but the Denmark-based owners and operators IBIA met had either not lifted them, or had only limited exposure to such off-spec fuels.’