In a recent informal poll of shipowners and operators that ABS conducted, 53% said their fleets were not ready to meet the sulphur cap requirements. As the deadline approaches, it is vital that industry consider the available options and the impacts on their fleets.


The available options to comply with the global sulphur cap include exhaust gas cleaning, burning compliant fuel or alternative fuels. As far as the o,5% Heavy Fuel Oil is concerned, ABS notes the following considerations:

  • Compatibility: Compatibility of one fuel oil with another cannot be readily predicted without testing.
  • Stability: There is a potential for a fuel to change conditions in storage in certain circumstances.
  • Cat fines: These are created due to catalytic cracking during the crude oil refining process, during which tiny fragments of the catalyst material enter the refined and residue products.
  • Combustion Characteristics: The ignition characteristic of a residual fuel is determined by the Calculated Carbon Aromaticity Index (CCAI) specified in ISO 8217. The CCAI indicates the ignition performance to avoid fuels with an uncharacteristic density-viscosity relationship.
  • Density: Density is related to the fuel quality because fuels from extensive refinery processing are left with a higher carbon content, are more aromatic and heavier.
  • Flash Point: The flash point limit is a safeguard against fire. SOLAS and ISO 8217 requires a fuel flash point not less than 60 degreed C and minimum flash point of any fuel carried in the tanks of a ship should be in this limit.
  • Pour Point: The pour point indicates the minimum temperature at which the fuel should be stored and pumped.
  • Viscosity: Viscosity is a measure of the fluidity of the product at a certain temperature. The viscosity of a fuel decreases with increasing temperature.
  • Tank cleaning:  The tank and piping system should be fully flushed, clearing out all last remnants of HFO before filling it with a lower sulfur fuel. This cleaning process takes time and cannot be conducted while the ship is in operation.
  • Sampling: When bunkering, a sample blend can be tested to make sure that the fuel mix is compatible. This can be carried out through sediment or spot testing.

Moreover, the new ABS Advisory includes background on air emission regulations and evaluates several relevant fuel types and the associated impacts and operational challenges for each.

Finally, as far as the operators preparations ahead of the 2020 sulphur cap are concerned, ABS reports the following:

  • Work with fuel suppliers before 2020 to ensure fuel type and specification so the vessel will be able to use compliant fuel in time.
  • Prepare to enter 'term contracts' rather than 'spot contracts', particularly in the period just after 01 January 2020.
  • Develop onboard plans for fuel segregation, mixing and compatibility testing as there will be increased levels of compatibility problems between fuels.
  • Create a transition plan, both shore side and onboard so that the transition goes smoothly.
  • Plan for tank cleaning and contract tank cleaning services.
  • Prepare budget considering increased capital and operating expenses.

See more information, in the PDF herebelow