Uncertainties regarding availability and safety of compliant fuels in 2020 when the 0.5 pct sulphur cap enters into force remain the key causes of concern for Greek shipowners.
“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,” the President of the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS), Theodore Veniamis, said.
“The option of achieving compliance through continued combustion of high-sulphur fuels with installed scrubbers, which in any case has questionable net environmental benefit, is the exception to the rule, especially in this sector due to its fundamental operational characteristics.”
Bulk/tramp shipping in which Greek shipping is primarily involved is by nature itinerant, which means that its modus operandi does not allow for contractual arrangements to be made with refineries and bunkering facilities at specific ports, the union explained.
Furthermore, the union pointed out to the lack of international standardization – ISO standards for the new type of compliant fuel by 2020 which adds to the complexity and compounds the problems.
“Post 2020, ships involved in bulk/tramp shipping will, in all likelihood, have to bunker untested and diverse fuel blends from different sources around the world, which are especially problematic, as the surge of fuel contamination instances has already indicated,” the union warned.
Given the issue at hand, the union believes that ship operators and crews should not be held disproportionately responsible for the safety and environmental consequences of the provision of unsafe or unsuitable fuels.
“The UN IMO shipping industry guidance is of course welcome but it is not enough; it needs to be coupled with an institutionalised process which will ensure the proper management of the 2020 sulphur cap issues, taking into account all related parameters, the breadth and width of which are yet unknown,” UGS said.
The union added that the proposal made to the forthcoming meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC73) by flag states representing more than 46% of the world’s shipping capacity along with international shipping associations for the introduction of an Experience-Building Phase (EBP) contributes to this aim.