This was the principal conclusion of the Annual General Meeting of ICS’s member national shipowner associations which met in Hong Kong last week. Speaking from Hong Kong, ICS Chairman Esben Poulsson said:

...Unless a number of serious issues are satisfactorily addressed by governments within the next few months, the smooth flow of maritime trade could be dangerously impeded. It is still far from certain that sufficient quantities of compliant fuels will be available in every port worldwide by 1 January 2020. And in the absence of global standards for many of the new blended fuels that oil refiners have promised, there are some potentially serious safety issues due to the use of incompatible bunkers.

As Mr Poulsson explained, governments, oil refiners and charterers of ships responsible for meeting the cost of bunkers all need to understand that ships will need to start purchasing compliant fuels several months in advance of 1 January 2020.

But at the moment no one knows what types of fuel will be available or at what price, specification or in what quantity. Unless everyone gets to grips with this quickly we could be faced with an unholy mess with ships and cargo being stuck in port.’

ICS emphasises that governments will need to make significant progress on these issues at a critical IMO meeting in July about the impending global sulphur cap, to which ICS – in cooperation with other international industry associations – will be making a number of detailed technical submissions to assist successful implementation of what ICS describes as a regulatory game changer.

In addition, the ICS meeting in Hong Kong endorsed its support for the historic IMO agreement on cutting emissions from ships, adopted in April 2018, which includes targets to improve the sector’s CO2 efficiency by at least 40% by 2030 and 70% by 2050, and a very ambitious goal to cut the sector’s total GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050.

ICS member national associations agreed to contribute constructively to the immediate development of additional IMO regulations that will start to have a direct impact on further reducing international shipping’s CO2 emissions before 2023, in line with the new IMO strategy. They agreed that ICS should come forward with detailed proposals before the next round of IMO discussions in October on reducing GHG emissions from shipping.

However, ICS members expressed serious disappointment at the apparent intention of the EU to press on with the implementation of a regional CO2 reporting system at variance to the global system already agreed by IMO, despite having given an undertaking to align the MRV regulation with the global regime.  ICS Chairman added:

We are still waiting to see the final recommendations from the European Commission following a recent consultation. But the industry has made clear its total opposition to the publication of data about individual ships using abstract operational efficiency metrics that bear no relation to CO2 emissions in real life and which will be used to penalise shipowners unfairly.

He concluded:

Anything less than a full alignment with the IMO CO2 data collection system will be seen as a sign of bad faith by many non-EU nations who recently agreed to the IMO GHG reduction strategy, precisely to discourage such unilateral measures which risk seriously distorting maritime trade and global shipping markets.