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MEPC correspondence group will look at fuel quality

Written by Nick Blenkey
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IMO MEPC session

OCTOBER 22, 2014 — Intertanko is hailing a decision on fuel oil quality taken at the just ended session of IMO’s MEPC as progress.

Regulation 18 of MARPOL Annex VI sets requirements for fuel oil quality for ships, including the prohibition of harmful additive substances. At previous session of MEPC, it was agreed to consider measures to ensure the supply of fuel oil in compliance with the requirements.

At the most recent MEPC, while there was support for establishing a legal framework for fuel oil suppliers, there was also support for development of non-mandatory guidance and MEPC could not reach a consensus. Instead, it was agreed to establish a correspondence group to continue the discussion.

Intertanko says that, after six submissions to the IMO over four years “persistence with another submission has resulted in progress to assure the quality of fuel delivered to ships.”

Intertanko says that the correspondence group will develop guidelines for states to ensure fuel quality compliance with MARPOL Annex VI and will also consider the adequacy of the current legal framework for assuring the quality of fuel.

Intertanko Managing Director Katharina Stanzel says: “We welcome this decision. However this is only the beginning as we believe that control of compliance should be transparent along the entire supply chain. Our members and all ship should be able to have confidence, and documented proof, that fuels they receive are at or above the mandated standards.”

In order to control whether bunkers delivered and used by ships are compliant, most parties to MARPOL Annex VI control fuels used by ships (i.e. sampling fuel in the engine room). Intertanko has been arguing that there should be clear evidence that the quality of fuel supplied to the ship is compliant.

From January 1, 2015 tighter SOx emissions limits (<0.1%) will mean increased control on ships arriving in port.

“Port authorities such as the EU Member States will have a real challenge in demonstrating non-compliance by testing fuels used by ships,” says INTERTANKO’s Technical Director Dragos Rauta, “when ships may hold test results demonstrating that the fuel delivered to them was not compliant.”

In order to protect their ships, Intertanko has advised its members to issue a Note of Protest to the Flag Administration, bunkering Port Authority and to Port State Control at the next port whenever bunker suppliers do not use IMO Guidelines to take the MARPOL sample and when sampling is not witnessed by the crew.

The latest submission, co-sponsored by Intertanko, Marshall Islands, Liberia and other industry representatives, found widespread recognition and support for amendments to the current rules to increase the control on fuels delivered to ships, arguing that there is ample evidence that the current regime is falling short.

However arguments that regulatory changes aimed at improving control with bunker suppliers would be too burdensome for many countries and would fundamentally change the supplier/customer relationship led to a successful U.S .proposal to develop non-mandatory guidelines to ensure that bunker suppliers provide fuels that comply with the quality requirements in MARPOL Annex VI.

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