The 5th session of the IMO’s sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC 5) last week has completed draft interim guidelines for the safety of ships using methanol as fuel, setting them on course for formal approval by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in 2020.
The goal of these guidelines is to provide for safe and environmentally-friendly design, construction and operation of ships and in particular their installations of systems for propulsion machinery, auxiliary power generation machinery and/or other purpose machinery using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel.
Methanol is a clean-burning fuel that emits low levels of NOx and particulate matter and it is virtually sulphur-free. The use of methanol is considered one of the choices for environmental compliance thanks to its huge potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A study conducted by SUMMETH project earlier in 2018 proved that there are no obstacles to the efficient use of methanol in a converted diesel engine.
According to data provided by IBIA, the Sub-Committee finalized work that has been progressing in the Correspondence Group on Development of Technical Provisions for the Safety of Ships using Low-flashpoint Fuels, which IBIA participates in with input from members with specialist knowledge. IBIA was also a co-sponsor of a document seeking to clarify a few remaining issues submitted to CCC 5 by Norway, IACS, IBIA and ITF.
Speaking at CCC 5 last week, IBIA urged the sub-Committee to give the utmost priority to finalizing the draft technical provisions for the safety of ships using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel, given that there are already eight large ships trading internationally operating on methanol as fuel and at least four more expected to enter into service in 2019.
While the ultimate goal is to add a new chapter on methyl/ethyl alcohol to the IGF Code, CCC 5 agreed that interim guidelines should be finalized urgently, with a commitment to add new part to IGF Code as soon as possible.
A working group at CCC 5 completed the draft and on Friday, CCC 5 agreed, in principle, to the draft interim guidelines for the safety of ships using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel and to invite MSC 100, which will meet in December, to endorse as an urgent matter referring safety topics requiring input from other technical sub-committees for their consideration.
These other technical sub-committees will then be able to inform CCC 6 which meets in September 2019. This means the interim guidelines should be ready for formal approval by MSC in the first half of 2020.
The only legal framework for using fuels with a lower flashpoint is the IGF Code, which entered into force in January 2017. It was developed to deal with LNG, but its general requirements nevertheless applies to all vessels above 500 gross tonnage that install low flash point fuel systems.
Specific regulations for other low-flashpoint fuels can be added as new chapters to the Code, but in the meantime, ships installing fuel systems to operate on other types of low flashpoint fuels will need to individually demonstrate that their design meet the Code’s general requirements,
The Methanol Institute welcomed this progress made by the Sub-Committee noting that methanol is already safely in use as a marine fuel onboard seven tankers operated by Waterfront Shipping and the Stena Germanica ropax ferry. Multiple testbed and pilot projects have also confirmed Methanol’s viability as a marine fuel.
This work was the culmination of a huge amount of effort by multiple stakeholders and industry participants who contributed to both the correspondence and working groups’ efforts over the past several years,
…said Chris Chatterton, Chief Operating Officer of the Methanol Institute.