ICS Warns of Potential Sulphur Fuel Cap ‘Chaos’


The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has warned of “chaos and confusion” unless the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) urgently resolves issues with implementing the 0.5% sulphur in marine fuel cap.

In its position as the world's principal shipping organisation — representing around 80% of the world’s merchant tonnage, the ICS has advised in a statement that the cap, scheduled to come into effect on January 1, 2020, could disrupt the world’s movement of energy, raw materials and manufactured products, which make up 90% of global ocean trade.

The ICS’s stance became clear after an Annual General Meeting of ICS’s member national shipowner associations, which met in Hong Kong last week.

Esben Poulsson, ICS Chairman, said: “The shipping industry fully supports the IMO global sulphur cap and the positive environmental benefits it will bring, and is ready to accept the significant increase in fuel costs that will result.

“But unless a number of serious issues are satisfactorily addressed by governments within the next few months, the smooth flow of maritime trade could be dangerously impeded. 

“It is still far from certain that sufficient quantities of compliant fuels will be available in every port worldwide by January 1, 2020.

“And in the absence of global standards for many of the new blended fuels that oil refiners have promised, there are some potentially serious safety issues due to the use of incompatible bunkers.”

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ICS has emphasised that governments will need to make significant progress on these issues at a critical IMO meeting in July about the impending global sulphur cap, to which ICS – in cooperation with other international industry associations – will be making a number of detailed technical submissions to assist successful implementation of what ICS describes as a regulatory game changer.

Poulsson added: “Governments, oil refiners and charterers of ships responsible for meeting the cost of bunkers all need to understand that ships will need to start purchasing compliant fuels several months in advance of 1 January 2020. 

“But at the moment no one knows what types of fuel will be available or at what price, specification or in what quantity. 

“Unless everyone gets to grips with this quickly we could be faced with an unholy mess with ships and cargo being stuck in port.”

Read more: The ICS recently said that governments must compromise to help IMO pass an ambitious strategy for reducing CO2 emissions by shipping that will match the expectations of the Paris Agreement on climate change

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