Aiming to clarify the situation regarding Fuel Oil Non-Availability Reports (FONARs), Skuld Club says that it is a discretionary tool for a Member State to lessen the breach of MARPOL Annex VI. However, it explains that FONARs are not an exemption but rather a self-declaration by owners that a breach has or is about to take place.
As Sarah Brooke, Assistant Vice President, Claims, Lawyer, Skuld Club says, there has been much discussion on whether owners may depend on the FONAR because of non-availability of compliant fuel.
The FONAR has a detailed questionnaire, which owners who find themselves in breach of Regulation 18 can make use of. Nonetheless, ‘the evidential threshold is high and succeeding on a dispensation or reduction of a fine will depend on whether best efforts were made to’:
- Source compliant fuel;
- Source local alternative sources.
As a result, even unavailability is not a permission to breach MARPOL, as alternative compliant fuels could have been bought.
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In order for owners to support a claim that all attempts were made to obtain compliant fuel, they must bear evidence that a voyage plan was in place, that there were valid reasons for being unable to get compliant bunkers and/or operational issues which would have put the ship in danger took place.
Port State Control (PSC) inspectors will also investigate other ships which called at a port which allegedly did not have compliant fuel available as well. This action aims to verify the truth of the statements that the report contains.
The PSC will also look for evidence of any fuel changeovers taken place outside of the jurisdiction of the Member States and whether the vessel had working emission control equipment during its visit.
What is more, the PSC will keep record of how many FONARs a vessel and/or their operators have requested over twelve months. Any patterns of non-compliance by a fleet will be found out, sanctioned and prevented from submitting future FONARs, Sarah Brooke highlighted.
After the submission of a FONAR, stricter investigations will occur, with the information being shared between Member States to report on compliant fuel oil supply issues.
Finally, Skuld noted that owners should be aware that only a small quantity of non-compliant bunkers should be stemmed, as entering a Member State will lead to the entirety of the non-compliant bunkers to be debunkered at owners’ expense.