The International Maritime Organization said in a statement Tuesday that the transition to its global sulfur limit rule for marine fuels has been “relatively smooth.”
The IMO capped global sulfur content in marine fuels at 0.5% from January, down from 3.5% previously.
This applies outside the designated emission control areas where the limit is already 0.1%.
Prices for compliant fuels — very low sulfur fuel oil and marine gasoil — rose quickly soon after, but now appear to be stabilizing, the IMO said late Tuesday.
As of January 20, 10 cases of compliant fuel unavailability had been reported on IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System, or GISIS, and the dedicated email address established by the IMO Secretariat has not received any specific correspondence reporting issues with implementation, it said.
“The next important target is fast approaching, when carrying non-compliant fuel oil on board ships becomes prohibited on March 1, 2020,” IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said.
“I urge all shipowners, operators and masters to comply with the carriage ban, where applicable, when it comes into effect,” he said, adding that the IMO will remain vigilant and ready to respond and provide any support.
Singapore is globally the largest bunkering hub and is located along one of world’s busiest waterways, with close to 1,000 ships anchored there at any given time. A ship calls at Singapore port every two to three minutes, bringing the total to around 130,000 ships a year and making its performance critical for bunkering and shipping industries.
“The shipping industry has been riddled with market uncertainty in recent months, but the bunker sales in the port of Singapore provide one of the first readings as to how the industry has transitioned into compliance with the IMO2020 regulation. We have now surpassed the first wave of IMO2020 and hopefully the accompanying market uncertainty will diminish as we proceed into 2020,” Peter Sand, BIMCO’s chief shipping analyst, had said in a statement last week.
However, some industry sources in Singapore Thursday said hiccups still remained at many Asian ports after the global low sulfur mandate was implemented.
“We have some experience…a couple of ships took 0.5% sulfur bunkers. The pistons of the [ship] engines have seized,” a market source said.
A trader said there were a lot of bunker claims as there is a “lot of off-spec cargo out there.”
“If you haven’t contracted for your bunkers, then delays may ensue,” a shipowner said.
Meanwhile, a second trader said there was some confusion because the “physical supplier is not able to price the product due to uncertainty. Traders were taking cargo positions although they weren’t holding back supplies.”
However, sources agreed that Singapore was still better placed that many other ports to deal with the IMO 2020 transition, and expect the initial challenges to pan out eventually.