Blowing away the smoke


The emphasis in 2019 will be on more regulations in the maritime sector and in particular in the shipping world. The regulation will now be familiar and as we press deeper into 2019 the issue of the IMO sulphur cap starting in January 2020 will start to become even more pressing.
The debate surrounding the implementation has been surrounded by fears of obsolescence in the selected solutions – scrubbers – and the effectiveness of the new fuels. Too expensive and not particularly efficient claim some large ship owners when talking about scrubbers and the returns on investment are overwhelmed by the initial costs of millions of dollars. The debate is still rumbling on: for those wanting to fit scrubbers there may still be time – depending on who you talk to – but most people seem to be waiting for the new fuels or turning to fuel treatments.
One thing is certain: the time to start preparing for the global sulphur cap for the majority will be in the next two months. No matter what route they go down, shipowners and operators must start getting their tanks flushed and cleaned of old fuel from at least the middle of 2019. Even the smallest amount of old sulphur fuel will mean a vessel will be non-compliant with IMO 2020 and Port State Control will be just one of the bodies looking over your shoulder. The pressure is now on the world shipping industry and only now, less than 50 weeks before it begins, are we starting to see the waters become clearer and discover where compliant fuel bunkering will be and when it will be readily available.
The choices have, or should have been, already made as to what solutions ship owners and operators will plump for: scrubbers, compliant fuel or fuel treatment. There will undoubtedly be some non-compliance out at sea but the increasing technology in the industry will surely put paid to those incidences. There is no turning back according to the IMO and certainly no backing down in terms of the start date, something that was raised in the early part of 2018.
The global sulphur cap will have a dramatic effect in reducing harmful emissions from heavy duty fuel oil. That change starts not in 2020 but should start from the middle of this year at the latest: tanks need to be flushed and cleaned to ensure compliance from the start. There is enough time to do it and probably now the will.