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Intercargo decries ‘largely unanswered’ questions over 2020

Dry bulk owners’ organisation urges fuel suppliers to step up availability of compliant fuel in ports worldwide and calls on charterers to purchase low-sulphur bunkers to give ships and crews practical experience ahead of January 1 deadline

Alarm sounded by dry bulk owners’ organisation as it urges fuel suppliers, charterers and owners to contribute more to preparing for a sea-change in the marine fuels’ supply chain in January 2020

DRY bulk shipowners’ association Intercargo has hit out at a lack of progress in meeting safety and logistical concerns stemming from the universal switch to low-sulphur marine fuels from January 1, 2020.

The body, which represents a large chunk of the highly fragmented world bulk carrier fleet, has been prominent in industry efforts to flag up unaddressed safety issues that have been acknowledged by the International Maritime Organization as arising from its global industry sulphur cap.

But on Friday the dry bulk owners’ organisation said that it was more alarmed than ever and urged fuel suppliers, charterers and owners to contribute more to preparing for what it called “a sea-change in the marine fuels’ supply chain”, one that moreover is now less than five-and-a-half months away.

“Intercargo expresses its growing concern in view of the magnitude of the challenge lying ahead for the industry and the need for a smooth transition,” it said in a statement.

Global availability of safe, compliant fuels was a key question that still remained “largely unanswered”, according to the association.

“It is extremely worrying that compliant fuels have so far been made available only in a limited number of ports and under unfavourable terms for voluntary early testing by ships,” it said. 

Intercargo urged the fuel supply industry to ensure sufficient volumes of compliant fuels are provided at ports around the world so that all sectors, including dry bulk owners, can be served.

Intercargo, and some other owners’ associations, have previously argued that bulk carriers and tramp ships more generally are particularly vulnerable to any shortfalls due to their itinerant, global trading patterns.

In addition, though, charterers and commercial operators should start purchasing the new fuels, said Intercargo.

As things stand, with charterers under no obligation to choose the scarcer, more expensive low-sulphur fuels, practical testing and in-service training for crews has been “very limited” and risks being pushed to the end of the year, the body argued.

The situation had safety implications that “could eventually threaten the safety of seafarers, ships and cargoes, as well as the marine environment”.

Intercargo also called for the so-called Publicly Available Specification related to the 0.5% limit to be made available as soon as possible to provide guidance on the application of the existing ISO 8217 specification for marine fuels. It has been under development for more than a year.

Shipowners and operators, meanwhile, were urged to take steps to enhance crew training. “Seafarers deserve our special consideration, as the industry will largely rely on their skills for managing the new compliant fuels aboard ships on the high seas to ensure a smooth implementation of this drastic change,” Intercargo said.


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