Mainly, IBIA provides information on issues around verifying compliance with sulphur limits, where it has been proactive in seeking sensible solutions to known and anticipated problems.

  • New definitions under MARPOL Annex VI

In February 2018, IBIA proposed to PPR 5 to define sulphur content in Regulation 2 of Annex VI using the most suitable specific reference test method, ISO 8754 to ensure analysis is done in a uniform and consistent way, including the test result reporting protocol, to avoid differences in application.

This proposal was taken up by a member state in an IMO submission.

To this result, the following definition agreed at PPR 6 will be forwarded to MEPC 74 in order to be approved:

Sulphur content of fuel oil means the concentration of sulphur in a fuel oil, measured in % m/m as tested in accordance with a standard acceptable to the Organization.

In light of the above definition, IBIA highlights a footnote that relies, specifying the use of ISO 8754:2003. This is consistent with the test method referenced in a footnote to appendix V of MARPOL Annex VI regarding information to be included in the bunker delivery note, which says the supplier should state the fuel’s sulphur content based on analysis done using this test method.

Moreover, PPR 6 developed additional draft amendments to Regulation 2, to specify names for three types of samples that may be used by competent authorities to verify compliance with the applicable sulphur limits (0.10% in ECAs and 0.50% outside ECAs).

This is commonly known as 'MARPOL delivered sample', referring to the representative sample the bunker supplier is required to provide to the ship at the time of delivery; 'In-use sample', to mean the sample of fuel oil in use on a ship; and 'Onboard sample' defined as a sample of fuel oil intended to be used or carried for use on board that ship.

The discussion about the above was controversial in the PPR 6 Working Group on Air Pollution. Some wanted to put 'MARPOL' in front of all three types of samples.

On the other hand, IBIA suggested that this would confuse the industry, as the 'MARPOL sample' is a popular term for the sample taken at the time of the delivery. Additionally, according to IBIA this is the only type of sample that is mandatory under the MARPOL Annex VI, in comparison to taking samples from a ship (in-use or onboard) to check for compliance is done only at the discretion of the competent authorities.

IBIA was pleased to see a majority of the sub-committee supporting this view.

  • Amendments to appendix VI on sulphur verification procedure

PPR 6 developed amendments to appendix VI to verify sulphur content, which currently applies only to the MARPOL sample, so that it also covers verification of in-use fuel oil and onboard fuel oil samples.

Due to this amendment PPR 6 needed to develop definitions for all three types of samples. The opening paragraph of the amended appendix VI states that the 'relevant verification procedure shall be used to determine whether the fuel oil delivered to, used or carried for use on board a ship is compliant with the applicable sulphur limits'.

The current procedure under appendix VI requires the average of two test results from a single laboratory to test at or below the applicable sulphur limit to be deemed compliant. If it exceeds the limit + 0.59R (the 95% confidence limit for precision of the test method) it will be deemed non-compliant, but if it is between the limit and the limit +0.59R the sample should be sent for analysis at a second laboratory for a further two test results. The average of all four test results must meet the limit.

What was agreed at PPR 6 was to rely solely on the average of two tests at a single laboratory, and to have two different procedures as follows:

  1. Part 1 – MARPOL delivered sample: 95% confidence will not apply – the average test result must be at or below the applicable limit (0.10% or 0.50% sulphur).
  2. Part 2 – Fuel oil in use or carried for use on board (in-use and onboard samples) –  95% confidence will apply, meaning an average test result up to the limit +0.59R will be considered to have met the regulatory requirement.

IBIA has been advocating applying the 95% confidence limit to all samples used for verifying compliance with MARPOL sulphur limit, in particular for samples taken from ships.

In light of the carriage ban on fuel oils exceeding 0.50% sulphur, due to take affect from 1 March 2020, IBIA has pointed out that in cases where the MARPOL sample fails to meet the 0.50% sulphur limit, the ship would consequently also be non-compliant with the carriage ban, although the fault would lie with the supplier.

Consequently, IBIA co-sponsored a submission to PPR 6 which proposed to treat all types of samples the same, whether authorities use in-use samples, MARPOL samples or samples taken from a ship’s fuel tank to determine compliance.

However, IBIA's submission didn't have much of support.

There is a risk that a single laboratory will report a non-compliant test result for a fuel that is, in fact, compliant. The current requirement for testing at a second laboratory if the first returns a test result above the limit, but within 95% confidence, helps reduce that risk, which is why IBIA and co-sponsors also asked to at least keep that in place if PPR could not agree to treating all samples the same. This was also not supported at PPR 6.

The agreed draft amendments to MARPOL Annex VI will be sent to MEPC 74 for approval, and if approved, for subsequent adoption by MEPC 75 which will be held in spring 2020, with an expected entry force date in mid-2021.

  • Sulphur testing advice in IMO’s 2020 Guidelines for consistent implementation

The amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to add a definition of 'sulphur content' under regulation 2 and to appendix VI ensuring that 95% confidence is at least given when analysing in-use or onboard fuel oil samples, if approved and adopted, will come into force after mid-2021 at the earliest.

As a result, IBIA and its co-sponsors submitted a proposal to PPR 6 to make sure that this will be highlighted in the Guidelines for consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit under MARPOL Annex VI.

In conclusion, IBIA reports that this proposal was successful and suggested language incorporated as follows under the header 'Fuel oil sample analysis':

'When an Administration decides to analyse a fuel oil sample to determine compliance with the sulphur limits in regulation 14.1 or 14.4, the final analysis should be carried out in accordance with ISO 8754:2003 by a laboratory that is accredited for the purpose of conducting the test in accordance with ISO/IEC 17025 or an equivalent standard. The test results should be in accordance with ISO 8754 reporting protocol, meaning a tested value at or above 0.10% sulphur should be reported with no more than two decimal places.'

'In detecting suspected non-compliance, the sample analysis should be conducted in a uniform and reliable manner as described in the above paragraph. The verification procedure for MARPOL delivered samples should be in accordance with appendix VI of MARPOL Annex VI. For other samples taken on board the ship, the in-use and onboard sample, the sample should be deemed to meet the requirements provided the test result from the laboratory does not exceed the specification limit +0.59R (where R is the reproducibility of the test method) and no further testing is necessary.'

Finally, IBIA states that there are concerns arising for PPR 6, because similar language still needs to be incorporated in the draft amendments to the 2009 Guidelines for port State control under the revised MARPOL Annex VI, which simply refer to undertaking sample analysis 'in accordance with appendix VI of MARPOL Annex VI'.

This has been raised and should be addressed at MEPC 74 to ensure ships are not subjected to analysis of in-use or onboard samples in accordance with the current appendix VI, which does not fully recognise the 95% confidence principle.