CENTRO INTERNAZIONALE STUDI CONTAINERS
ANNO XXXVIII - Numero FEBBRAIO 2020
IMO prepares to ban ships carrying HFO and has another look
The IMO's sub-committee on pollution prevention and response
(PPR) will this week finalise details of the ban from 1 March on the
carriage of HFO (heavy fuel oil) on ships not fitted with scrubbers.
The agenda for the London meeting also includes scope for
further work on revising the guidelines for the use of the exhaust
gas cleaning system alternative to LSFO (low-sulphur fuel oil) in
the light of the experience gained post IMO 2020.
The complementary MARPOL amendment to the 0.5% sulphur cap on
ships' fuel, in force since 1 January, will make it illegal after 29
February for vessels that do not have scrubber systems installed to
have HFO on board in fuel tanks.
Industry consensus is that IMO 2020 caused very little
disruption and that possible shortages of the 'new normal' compliant
LSFO (low-sulphur fuel oil), or even HFO for scrubber-fitted
vessels, have been overcome, at least at the main bunker hubs.
However, it remains to be seen how compliant with the new rules
the shipping industry turns out to have been, given that much of the
responsibility for policing the IMO regulations comes under the
auspices of its member states.
Indeed, the Trident Alliance, an industry group set up to ensure
a level playing field on the enforcement of the sulphur cap, says it
is "still early days" in assessing the success of IMO
2020. Talking to Ship & Bunker last week, chair of the group
Roger Strevens said the data needed would only be available later in
By then, he said, a comparison could be made on the amount of
HFO that had been purchased against the known base requirement for
"That will be a very interesting comparison," said Mr
Installing scrubbers has been accepted by the IMO flag states as
an alternative means of meeting the new sulphur limit. It resulted
in all sectors of the maritime industry investing billions of
dollars in retrofitting scrubber systems on existing tonnage and
specifying installation on newbuilds.
Since the 0.5% sulphur cap became law, shipping lines that
invested in scrubbers have saved millions of dollars in the cost of
bunker fuel, as the premium for LSFO has ranged from $200-$300 a
However, the process of the most popular open-loop scrubber
systems, which use sea water to separate the sulphur content, which
is then stored onboard for later discharge at port before the 'wash
water' is discharged back into the sea, has attracted negative
press, resulting in the use of open-loop scrubbers being banned in
the jurisdictions of more than 80 ports around the world.
The sub-committee is tasked with continuing its work on revising
the 2015 guidelines for scrubbers - aimed at "enhancing the
uniform application" of the guidance.
To assist its work, the sub-committee will have a report
submitted by the Joint Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of
Marine Environmental Protection, containing its conclusions on the
environmental effects of discharged wash water from scrubbers.
The report, leaked to The Guardian newspaper, apparently warns
that toxins remaining in the wash water could harm the food chain.
A pro-scrubber lobby group of ship operators, the Clean Shipping
Alliance, has constantly defended the use of exhaust gas cleaning
systems as a "safe and effective means of complying with IMO
2020", citing supporting data from six independent studies.
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