BIMCO says FONAR guideline is good news, fuel sampling issues need more work


BIMCO has at the latest meeting at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) called for clarification and guidelines for shipowners and flag states in cases when ships cannot buy compliant fuel in a port from 1 January 2020.

While the legislation is in place, additional guidelines for how the legislation will work in practice are urgently needed. Guidelines are needed in cases when compliant fuel is not available at ports and exemptions need to be made, as well as for guidelines on measuring sulphur content.

FONAR guidelines now ready for adoption
BIMCO pointed to these issues as top priority at the sixth meeting of IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 6) in London which ended on February 22.

“For some time now, we have been working on areas that need guidelines and that had to fall into place at this meeting at the IMO. Now there is good news,” says Aron Sorensen, Head of Marine Technology and Regulation at BIMCO.

“During the meetings, the PPR 6 finalised the guidelines on a Fuel Oil Non-Availability Report (FONAR), which can be used to report fuel oil non-availability and substantiate that a ship is unable to obtain compliant fuel oil to the relevant authorities,” Sorensen says.

According to the guidelines, a copy of a submitted FONAR will need to be kept on board for at least 36 months, and port state control (PSC) is instructed to scrutinize potential claims filed during the previous 12 months. Based on this, the port state will decide what action to take, if any.

Sorensen adds that the guidelines will now be sent to the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in May 2019 for adoption.

More discussion needed on fuel sampling
In order to ensure compliance with the ban on carriage of high sulphur marine fuel, which enters into force in March 2020, the ship will have to be equipped with sampling point(s) that can be used to take an “in-use sample”.

Ships will have to be equipped with an in-use fuel oil sampling point(s) for taking representative samples of the fuel oil being used on board. The new regulation on designated sampling point(s) is expected to enter into force for existing ships after the first renewal survey that occurs 12 months or more after the entry into force of the MARPOL amendments.

This investment will enable port state control officers to control the oil used, but additionally, members states asked for sampling directly in the fuel oil tanks.

It was highlighted by BIMCO and other industry organisations, that drawing a sample from a fuel oil bunker tank may not result in a homogenous sample for establishing the sulphur content, since the bunker tanks are not structurally designed for safe and representative sampling.

There are currently no guidelines for sampling of fuel oil in bunker tanks and therefore no precise answer to questions such as what exactly it means to have 0.50% sulphur in the fuel and how it should be measured.

“It is therefore very important that we continue discussions about this issue. Sampling of bunker tanks may soon be used to punish ships, and this may be the wrong way to go,” Sorensen says.

Mette Kronholm Frænde
in Copenhagen, DK


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VPS Bunker Alerts

Veritas Petroleum Services (VPS) publish regular Bunker Alerts based entirely on fuel samples and have kindly permitted BIMCO’s Members to access this information.

The Bunker Alerts are not intended to be an evaluation of overall bunker quality in the port or area concerned, but usually highlight a specific parameter within the fuel which has raised a quality issue.

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