The sulphur cap is less than a year away and with most vessels choosing compliant fuel, do you expect to see a spike in incidents and accidents related to the switch over? 


Alvin Forster
Deputy Director (Loss Prevention)
The North of England P&I Club
Panos Zachariadis
Technical Director, Atlantic Bulk Carriers Management
Yes. But perhaps not quite as bad as some are suggesting. Many seafarers are already experienced in fuel changeovers so as long it is properly planned the actual process of switching over should be relatively straightforward. But moving to compliant fuels will probably require extensive (and in some cases repeated) tank cleaning and we are all well aware of the unacceptable number of deaths related to enclosed space entry. Some of the other risks are dependent on the choice of compliant fuel. The challenges associated with distillates such as MGO are well-known (e.g. cold flow properties) and it is likely that the risk of leakage from engine fuel pumps will increase. But a significant concern surrounds the new VLSFO products which are likely to be blends or hybrids. We know little about the characteristics of these new compliant fuels other than the increased risk of incompatibility. Incompatibility leads to sludge build-up in tanks and the fuel system and could result in engine damage, blackout or loss of propulsion. Those opting for scrubbers aren’t without risk. As more ports ban the use of open loop scrubbers, these vessels may need to switch to and from compliant fuel on a regular basis as they enter and leave these restricted areas. We also expect to see an increase in time charter disputes where the charterer provides the vessel’s bunkers. If they haven’t already, shipowners and charterers need to start thinking about these potential issues and act now. We have been advising our Members on this topic for several months and we have provided numerous resources at Yes I think so. Although fuels provided by majors and other reputable suppliers should be more safe, due to their procedures and internal testing, there are thousands of traders/suppliers out there. I'm afraid they will just be blending to the sulphur regulation limit. Unfortunately the ISO specification -to be released- will not be sufficient in my opinion to address the potential problems, while the existing test analyses methods, available to owners, cannot catch the problems beforehand. Even extended Spectral analyses, may detect contaminants but not the potential problems as a result of the various blends. Detection of contaminants does not necessarily mean bad fuel, so the industry is currently plagued by false alarms. We are moving to unexplored territory and unfortunately we have no survival tools (i.e. proper specs and tests).
Antonis Trakakis
Technical Director, Arista Shipping
Dr. Jan de Kat
Director, ABS
Yes, there will be several incidents, although not all of them may become known. Potentially there are high chances that onboard separators will not cope well with the quality of the new compliant fuel, and even if it falls within spec, the fuel at engine inlet may not be favorable to her fuel system. The problems may vary a lot both in nature and frequency between the 2 stroke and 4 stroke engines, and between various operating loads, while trading needs that might dictate commingling of fuel will deteriorate the situation on board. It is to be proven whether running on a blended 0.5% fuel is more favorable to owner than running on LSMGO



Maybe.The extent to which we see an increase in incidents will depend on how well fuel oil suppliers implement quality control and the shipowners’ ability to prepare their fleets for operating on low sulfur fuel oil (LSFO) well before 1 January 2020.

It is important to begin proactively testing LSFO where it is available, carefully monitoring the performance of engines and systems as early as possible. Evaluating the performance of different types of LSFO will not only allow a better understanding of compatibility, stability, catalytic fines and tank heating requirements but also help identify any critical fuel quality issues in good time.

At ABS, we are helping owners perform operational assessments and develop an IMO-supported Ship Implementation Plan that outlines how their vessels will be in a position to comply.


Bill Stamatopoulos
Business Development Manager, South Europe, Bureau Veritas
Charalampos Giantzikis
Technical Manager, Arcadia Shipmanagement Co. Ltd
Yes, but initially. Operational issues were experienced in the first SOx Emission Control Areas as well as in the Californian waters in 2009; however a similar trend was not observed in the North Sea/English Channel in 2015.

Part of the reason is likely that the industry was better prepared; from supplier to buyer to ships’ crew. Similarly:


  • Fuel suppliers will undergo a learning curve in stabilizing their VLSFO production
  • Ship operators are thoroughly preparing (risk assessment, mitigation plans etc)
  • Ships’ crew should be adequately trained for receiving widely different VLSFOs requiring different operational settings and procedures.

Although a challenging task, the industry will adapt to the new environment via training, knowledge sharing and in cooperation with their fuel management partner.

Yes, there will be a spike in incidents and accidents. It will be similar to the problems faced when LSMGO was first used, but it will be more dramatic. Up to now we still don’t know the products that we will be using. The compliant fuel stability will be an issue. The compatibility will also be an issue, with one of the major suppliers advising that the compliant fuels, coming from their own refineries around the world ,will be compatible but  not mixable. Blending of fuels will increase cat fines. Few suppliers will test their products and obtain no objection letters from engine makers. Engines will run continuously with the compliant fuel and not all tanks will be properly cleaned.


Frantzeskos Kontos
Technical Manager/ DPA, Prime Marine Management
No. Provided that necessary precautionary procedures are followed, incidents and/or accidents related to switch over are not expected. The precautionary procedures have to include following, the list not being exhaustive:
  1. Crew training / knowledge regarding use of fuel with low sulphur content covering the topics of cold flow properties, compatibility, viscosity and use of proper lubrication.
  2. Compatibility between compliant fuels is expected to be an issue. The provision of compatibility test kit on board and the allocation of a separate bunker tank for each compliant fuel type / grade will alleviate the problem.

For newbuilding, consideration shall be given in providing multiple storage tanks with dedicated fuel piping to prevent fuel commingling.

  1. The existence of sound and clear ship’s specific instruction for change-over between compliant fuels is necessary. Relative HAZID and RAs have to be conducted and control measures introduced / implemented. Crew familiarization / training on change-over procedures will constitute a key element.