During a recent symposium at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2020, the IMO’s Secretary General urged collaboration will be the key to success of the 0.50% global Sulphur standard. In our view this collaboration is essential to achieve the expected environmental and respiratory health benefits associated with the global switch to the use of 0.5% fuels and this can only be accomplished by all stakeholders working together towards a fair and consistent enforcement of these requirements.

The RMI is a party to MARPOL Annex VI. We oversee compliance of a large and diverse ship registry.  Accordingly the focus on the subject, from my point of view, will be from the interests of a flag Administration. The first point I want to highlight is really an important view on enforcement from our standpoint. It should be noted that the obligations on all parties to MARPOL Annex VI, both Port States and flag States alike, with respect to enforcement and control are already governed under chapter 2 of MARPOL Annex VI. The survey, certification and control frameworks have been in place for some time, actually since the inception of the convention. So, these compliance mechanisms are not new and do not change as a consequence of the shift from 3.5% to 0.50% fuels at the end of the year.

The only change at the end of the year is the numerical limit for the required Sulphur content of the fuel oil used, and that change essentially takes place overnight. But despite this simplistic depiction, the magnitude of the change on a global scale should not be underestimated. It is unprecedented and will profoundly affect the industry. We recognize this. Most of this is a bit of an old story at this point despite some lingering uncertainties. Regardless, our view is that ships must be compliant on and after this date. So the transition period is taking place now and compliance is required on the 1st of January.

From the flag State point of view, compliance is documented and verified according to the current statutory survey and certification requirements under regulations 5 and 6. In the case of the RMI, the issuance of the International Air Pollution Prevention certification has been delegated to Recognized Organizations to carry out this work on our behalf and is carried out under the harmonized survey and certification regime. So there are really no special provisions that have been established in this regard.

Similarly, the role of port State control (PSC) is also fully addressed under the same chapter, but a different regulation under the same existing regulatory framework. Although PSC activities continue to evolve beyond the normal document check and include more indicative methods, such as spot checks of fuel oil and use of sniffers or sampling of the exhaust from the ship’s funnel, guidelines on operational control are adjusting in line with these new approaches. However, the current regulatory frameworks remain unchanged.  So the main point to highlight here is that, while PSC rights for verifying operational requirements are already governed under articles 5 and 6 of the MARPOL Convention, as well as regulations 10 and 11 of Annex VI, article 6 of the MARPOL Convention specifically calls for all parties to collaborate on the enforcement of the provisions of the present convention. That includes all annexes including MARPOL Annex VI. It is on this key and underpinning provision that we see collaboration among stakeholders to be essential as was referred to by the IMO Secretary General.

Although the Sulphur content standard itself is simplistic, in the real world achieving compliance has to take into account a range of interrelated variables, some of which are beyond the scope of control by the a ship.  This may lead to a variety of potentially complicated and difficult compliance issues in the future. Therefore, we, as a flag Administration, are open to work in partnership with other enforcement agencies to find pragmatic and consistent solutions to these issues. For the RMI Registry, our key policy instrument giving effect to air emissions obligations are located under a policy document titled Marine Notice 2-013-8.

The Administrator has been quite busy recently developing updates to this policy to incorporate recent outcomes from the IMO. Over the last two years, IMO has been undertaking work on developing guidance and further measures to help enhance consistent implementation of the standard, taking into account the costs associated with this change. One noteworthy inclusion into this policy is a reference to ship implementation planning guidelines.

Shortly after its publication last year, the Administrator issued these guidelines as a marine safety advisory to ensure shipowners had early access to this information. It is now incorporated by reference directly into the updated policy with a caveat noting that this Ship Implementation Plan (SIP) which is standardized under these guidelines is a non-mandatory document but it is recommended to be onboard to be used as a tool in the event of difficulties or issues when converting and transitioning into the use of 0.50% fuels.

Additionally, the policy is also brought up to date in advance of the forthcoming amendments to regulation 14. This is with respect to the future amendments that will establish a prohibition against the carriage of non-compliant fuel on or after the 1st March 2020. We would like to highlight this fundamental change to regulation 14, even though it takes place after 1 January 2020, it does not affect the current enforcement provisions for regulation 14. So compliance with the 0.50% standard is still required on or after 1st January.

Another important note from a national perspective is to now require ship owners and operators to report to the Administration instances where fuel oil delivered is found not in compliance with the flashpoint limit required by SOLAS. This specific reporting requirement is in line with the recommendations issued by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) earlier this year, relative to discussions on safety aspects relating to the use of oil fuel. Lastly, and perhaps, most significantly, we have also produced a new form for communicating fuel oil non-availability reports (FONARS), according to the standard format agreed at the last session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).

The standard format for the FONAR is a very positive outcome of the consistent implementation guidelines, from our point of view, since it represents a step forward from the existing provisions of regulation 18 that are already in place to address fuel oil availability. So again, this is a situation where the framework for addressing fuel oil availability is already available within the Convention text, but what was lacking was a standardized approach or a consistent approach towards reporting that information.

By having a standardized template for the FONAR, the intention is to facilitate better coordination between parties of the Convention when considering appropriate actions to take in such scenarios. The RMI form is based on the format appended to the consistent implementation guidelines and was developed specifically to provide user-friendliness using a model that we had actually proposed to a submission to the IMO in collaboration with Canada and Australia.

In our view, usability will be essential towards providing accurate information consistently, and how information is obtained and reported and subsequently notified to the IMO by uploading to the IMO notification platform. The RMI is actively collaborating with several other Member States and industry organizations calling for enhanced reporting of information on the implementation of the 0.50% standard. A clear standardized form for use in non-availability scenarios should hopefully support this aim, since what we are calling for is clear information on where the difficulties are arising with respect to implementation, as well as with the use of 0.50% fuels.

But our work doesn’t stop here. We have been very busy over the last year on raising awareness on some of the ongoing issues associated with this monumental regulatory change. IMO 2020 has been a regular key topic of discussion within recent meetings of the Marshall Islands Quality Council (MIQC). This is an association of various industry stakeholders, not just shipowners. The MIQC meets periodically to provide the Maritime Administrator with feedback on topical issues of importance.

In addition to updating and publishing national policies directing compliance as expeditiously as possible, such as our marine notice, Administrator representatives and offices around the world have also been actively engaging in outreach and face-to-face meetings with shipowners and managers to advise of developments and answer any questions relating to our expectations for compliance.

Also we have been looking within, ensuring Administrator representatives in our offices that will be on the front lines are also appropriately trained and informed of these requirements and associated issues. This is so that we may collectively, as an organization, appropriately respond and assist when needed, as well as to be able to collaborate and interact with other enforcement agencies around the world.

Last, we cannot forget our industry partners as well who have also been working very hard developing a range of supporting guidance materials in anticipation of some of these challenges. Accordingly, we also encourage all stakeholders to make use of these very valuable resources available and to be prepared for the end of the transition which is on our doorstep.

Above text is an edited version of Mr. Nick Makar’s presentation during the 2019 SAFETY4SEA Singapore Forum.

You may view his presentation above

The views presented hereabove are only those of the author and not necessarily those of  SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.


Nicholas Makar, Senior Vice President, Maritime Administration / Regulatory Affairs, Marshall Islands Registry

Mr. Makar joined IRI in 2004 as Vice President, Technical / Investigations. In 2009, he was appointed to Vice President, Regulatory Affairs. He took sabbatical from IRI from 2014-2017 where he worked for the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) as a Principal Engineer assisting in developing regulatory policies and training materials and supported the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) delegation at the IMO. He rejoined IRI in September 2017 and was promoted to Senior Vice President, Maritime Administration / Regulatory Affairs in June 2019. He has extensive experience representing the RMI at various IMO and ILO meetings, actively participating in the development of numerous MARPOL and SOLAS amendments and codes. Mr. Makar earned a B.E. in Mechanical Engineering from the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College in 1996, and holds a Chief Engineer’s license for Steam and Gas Turbine Vessels of Any Horsepower after working at sea as an engineering officer on US flag commercial vessels prior to joining IRI. He is a past Chairman of the New York Metropolitan Section of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) and is presently on the Executive Board for the New York Society of Marine Port Engineers (SMPE). He is also an active member of the Marine Society of the City of New York and is an honorary member of the Marine Accident Investigators’ International Forum (MAIIF).