Mainly, the 2020 sulphur cap regulation is approaching. IMO 2020 is being called a once-in-a-generation disruptor to shipping’s commercial environment.

The regulation is about to change the face of the industry, making big steps to a better environment and an improved air quality. In the meantime, the 2020 regulation could negatively affect operations in the possibility that shipowners won't prepare effectively.

Our advice to shipowners is simple: plan ahead now, don't “wait and see” – and we’re here to help you.

Mrs Ziou states that it's the Club's mission to help their members achieve certainty and reduce their exposure to the unknown.

Yet, there are four key areas that need to be addressed before the 2020 deadline:

  • How the regulation will be consistently enforced globally;
  • Education on how new compliant fuel should be handled;
  • How shipowners can report compliance issues to competent authorities;
  • Mitigation of any safety issues related to switching to low-sulphur fuels.

IMO's PPR 6 committee has already agreed to specific draft guidelines concerning the 2020 sulphur cap, in light of helping the players of the shipping sector.

In the meantime, IMO is working on fuel oil non availability template (FONAR), which would be submitted by shipowners to port state control (PSC) in the event that compliant fuel cannot be obtained.

The FONAR provides documentation to prove that every effort to obtain compliant fuel has been pursued prior to a decision to bunker with non-compliant fuel.

Also, switching from conventional heavy fuel oil to low-sulphur compliant fuel comes with potential safety risks attached too.

For instance, incidents such as loss of propulsion and fires were reported onboard certain vessels that transitioned to using low-sulphur fuel after the North American emissions control area (ECA) came into effect in August 2012.

In order to eliminate safety risks incurred by the transition, the ISO is developing supplementary advice on the handling of new fuels, that will be published in the middle of 2019.

In addition, a joint industry project is writing guidance on new compliant fuel oils, possible safety issues and crew training. Although the IMO hasn't yet published fuel safety concerns, the meeting of its Marine Safety Committee will do in June.

Moreover, it is important to make sure of the quality of the new marine fuels.Price volatility is a concern too and the tight supply of compliant fuel is expected to force prices upwards, possibly by hundreds of dollars per tonne.

Although scrubbers seem to be an efficient solution, it is still a controversial issue; the war on open loop scrubbers seems to be based more on commercial pressures than on scientific evidence.

Mrs Ziou highlights that

The Chamber is reserving judgement. We support any review of wash discharge standards if necessary, but any review should be based on scientific evidence and done through IMO’s appropriate technical bodies.

At the end the day, choosing to run on compliant fuel or fit scrubbers is a commercial decision, especially given that bunkers are the largest operational expense for a ship.