The International Chamber of Shipping's (ICS) chairman, Esben Poulsson, has warned IMO member states that the implementation date of the 0.5 percent global sulphur in fuel cap is fast approaching, suggesting that “time is fast running out."
The IMO global sulphur cap for marine fuel, which will come into effect on January 1, 2020, is expected to see shipping's bunker prices increase significantly.
"While ICS fully supports the objectives of the IMO cap, the overnight introduction of this regulatory game-changer will have enormous implications for ship operations. It will be vital to get the implementation right," said Poulsson.
"As well as concerns as to whether sufficient quantities of compliant low sulphur fuels will be available in every port, there are a number of complex practical issues which IMO needs to urgently resolve within the next 18 months if the unfair treatment of ships is to be avoided."
In the absence of agreed standards for new fuels, including blends that will be compliant with the 0.5 percent sulphur limit but which may differ in their composition from port to port, ICS is concerned this could lead to serious compatibility and mechanical problems.
According to ICS there could be an initial period of 'teething problems' when suitable compliant fuel might not always be available in every port until it can be shipped in from elsewhere. This is more likely to be a significant problem for ships in tramp trades which call at diverse port destinations which are not always known long in advance.
Poulsson added: "It is vital that ship operators, charterers and fuel purchasers start making the necessary preparations to be ready for this major change. This also means that oil refiners and bunker suppliers will need to ensure that compliant fuels are actually available for ships to purchase well in advance of January 2020."