In the absence of an effective strategy for enforcing the sulphur cap, Paul Fanning argues that a carriage ban for non-compliant fuels is the only answer
Several shipping industry organisations have joined with environmental groups in calling for a ban on the carriage of non-compliant marine fuels when the global 0.5% sulphur cap takes effect in 2020.
The motion aims to prevent owners from burning high sulphur fuel on the high seas, but switching to low-sulphur fuel oil when a vessel is at port or near shore and available for inspection by port state control. The joint statement was issued ahead of February’s meeting of the IMO to discuss the sulphur cap and is intended to sway opinion in this direction.
The reason for this is clear. Shipowners fear widespread non-compliance with the sulphur cap and a consequent competitive advantage for rogue operators using cheap, non-compliant fuel.
The implementation of the 0.5% sulphur limit in trades away from the major shipping lanes is also a major concern, especially if there is a tightening of the supply of compliant fuel oils and a significant fuel oil price hike in 2020.
How successful this bid is remains to be seen. However, the fact that it is being made at all demonstrates clearly that there is little faith among shipowners that there will be effective enforcement of the sulphur cap. In the absence of a clear, effective and unambiguous enforcement plan, a carriage ban such as the one outlined may be the only way to prevent large-scale non-compliance.