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Greece urges IMO to consider delaying sulphur cap

The 0.5% sulphur cap is just a month away from coming into force but the controversy surrounding it is far from over. Greece’s shipping minister has made a high-profile appeal to governments and the IMO to consider postponing the 2020 sulphur cap implementation. But the IMO is clear that a delay is not possible

Ioannis Plakiotakis says he fears there could be fatal accidents if outstanding issues regarding the 0.5% sulphur cap are not resolved

IMPLEMENTATION of the 2020 sulphur cap should be delayed to resolve key outstanding issues, including the potential for fatal accidents.

Speaking less than 40 days before the regulation comes into effect, Greek shipping minister Ioannis Plakiotakis urged the International Maritime Organization and its member states to take a “brave stance”.

“I urge the IMO Assembly and the member states to take this brave stance on this issue and consider the delay potentially of the implementation of the regulation until we find the right solutions,” the minister said during a speech at the IMO Assembly meeting in London on Monday.

“The IMO has the means and the experience to do this. But it must also have the will to do it.”

Mr Plakiotakis said more time was needed for a thorough assessment of the safety implications that the new regulations would create for vessels and crews.

He said that despite the general perception that the 0.5% sulphur cap was a done deal, the fact that IMO bodies continued to discuss it showed there were still concerns that have not been addressed, including low-sulphur fuel availability, compatibility and safety.

IMO committees are examining ways to enhance regulation, but this is primarily through bolstering data collection.

A wider criticism of the regulation has been that ships and crews will be forced to use widely untested fuels with mostly unknown implications. But most industry bodies and the IMO believe that with sufficient preparation operators can mitigate the potential for complications.

Mr Plakiotakis’ statements echo the sentiments of the Union of Greek Shipowners, which has long expressed concerns with the regulation.

Intercargo, the leading dry cargo shipping association, has also often criticised the 2020 sulphur cap.

Mr Plakiotakis said he feared that if the global community did not address these concerns, the world would witness disruptions to global trade and even fatal incidents at sea.

The minister did not clarify how this potential delay in the implementation of the regulation could happen or would be co-ordinated at this stage, just a month before it comes into effect.

Mr Plakiotakis also said Greece was putting into effect a regulation that penalises fuel suppliers that are not compliant with IMO regulations. He urged other governments to do the same.

A spokesperson for Mr Plakiotakis did not immediately respond to calls from Lloyd’s List.

An IMO spokesperson told Lloyd’s List that any postponement or delay to the January 1 implementation of the new limit was not feasible procedurally or legally.

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