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MSC has issued an official statement outlining its position on the decision by the Federal Transport Authority (FTA) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to penalise its ship MSC JOANNA for carrying non-compliant fuel after the IMO 2020 carriage ban came into effect.

The MSC statement – issued yesterday (18 March) – said that the MSC JOANNA had been due for a scrubber refit, but this had been delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak. Consequently, the ship had been carrying ‘traditional marine fuel’ (i.e. fuel oil with a sulphur content greater than 0.50%)  in ‘a sealed tank to be ready for testing’ while the company waited to find out when the scrubber installation would take place. MSC added that the MSC JOANNA ‘has used only compliant low-Sulphur fuel since IMO 2020 came into effect’.

The full text of the MSC statement reads:

'In relation to the 16 March 2020 Circular from the Federal Transport Authority (FTA) in the United Arab Emirates, MSC is discussing the matter with the FTA and would like to provide the following context to our customers and partners.

'MSC has a very large fleet of 520 container ships and is fully committed to implementing the UN IMO 2020 low-Sulphur regime. All vessels requiring compliant fuel were supplied in advance of the implementation date.

'This includes MSC JOANNA, which has used only compliant low-Sulphur fuel since IMO 2020 came into effect.

'MSC has also made – and is still making – significant investments in the fleet with the installation of IMO-approved exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS).

'These “scrubber” technologies clean the emissions from traditional marine fuel and are being used across the container shipping industry today. They even have the potential to produce lower Sulphur emissions than fuel with 0.5% Sulphur content.

'Many of the shipyards where EGCS installation has been taking place are in areas affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic and this has generated a large backlog of installations for shipowners.

'In particular, Chinese shipyards were closed or partially closed for a significant period of time following the extended Lunar New Year holiday as the country grappled with the new coronavirus outbreak. This has impacted shipowners’ schedules for retrofitting ships, as has been widely documented in the media.

'MSC JOANNA is one of those ships which has been subject to an EGCS delay and has been carrying traditional marine fuel in a sealed tank to be ready for testing while we wait to find out when the  installation will take place: it is currently scheduled for June 2020.'

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