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Owners warn of sulphur cap 'chaos and confusion'

21 May 2018

The global shipowners' organisation has warned that ships could get stuck in ports as a consequence of 'an unholy mess' posed by the introduction of a worldwide 0.5% sulphur fuel cap. 

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) highlighted the threat of 'chaos and confusion' arising from questions over the availability, price and specifications of compliant fuels when the new rules come into effect in January 2020.

'It is still far from certain that sufficient quantities of compliant fuels will be available in every port worldwide by 1 January 2020,' said ICS chairman Esben Poulsson. 'And in the absence of global standards for many of the new blended fuels that oil refiners have promised, there are some potentially serious safety issues due to the use of incompatible bunkers.'

The ICS says governments will need to make significant progress on resolving these issues at a critical International Maritime Organisation (IMO) meeting in July.

However, Nautilus professional and technical officer David Appleton questioned the ICS approach to the regulations; 'The current narrative being put forward by shipowners is that the 2020 0.5% sulphur cap is a new development that has been sprung upon them unexpectedly, when in fact it was agreed in 2008 and they will have had a full 12 years to prepare for when it finally enters into force,' he pointed out.

'Studies have shown that fuel availability issues are unlikely and there are provisions within the regulations to allow for such issues should they occur.

'The introduction of the cap is a right and necessary step to reduce the unacceptable levels of pollution produced by international shipping,' Mr Appleton added. 'It is estimated that the five-year delay that was proposed would have resulted in 200,000 additional premature deaths, yet the shipowners argued and continued to argue regardless. We would suggest that their efforts would be better placed in joining responsible shipowners who have called for effective enforcement of the cap.'

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