IMO considers new measures to improve control on quality of bunker fuels

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During the 6th meeting of its Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 6), IMO discussed about measures to improve the quality of fuel delivered by bunker suppliers. This was not the first time that IMO discussed on the case, but this time is special since the discussions were put into a context of IMO Guidelines for the implementation of the IMO2020 regulations as well as a joint circular between the Marine Safety and the Marine Environmental Protection Committees (MSC-MEPC).

The main proposal, heard during the IMO meeting, was to perform spot pre-delivery tests in order for the authorities to ensure that the fuels comply with MARPOL regulations related not only with the maximum allowable sulfur content but also with the fuel safety (Regulation 18.3).

During PPR 6 more details were discussed about the implementation of those pre-delivery tests. According to the relevant draft IMO Guidelines, the samples will be taken by the designated authorities from either the bunker barges or the shore bunker terminals as they deem necessary, while the frequency of those testings will be left to the authorities’ discretion. Guidelines also contain instructions to the authorities of how to take corrective measures in case of non-compliance and how to share feedback with the IMO.

Moreover, with a joint MSC-MEPC circular, IMO is aiming to put a broader control on the bunker suppliers. According to the relevant draft circular, each Member State, under its jurisdiction, should take appropriate actions against suppliers, to ensure that they follow regulations and deliver compliant fuel oil.

Furthermore, during the meeting, a lot of parties shared the opinion that much more measures should be taken. Therefore, new potential measures will be discussed in the MEPC 74 of May, when both the guidelines and the circular discussed during the PPR 6 are expected to be approved.

Especially for the forthcoming MEPC 74, IMO has invited parties to come up with any specific and concrete proposals about the development of a bunker suppliers’ licencing scheme. This proposal has been supported by the International Bunker Industry Association, since, according to IBIA it will increase fairness between the suppliers who follow best practices, while it will also increase transparency for the bunker fuel buyers. Though, in case such a licensing scheme was about to become mandatory, it should be limited to requirements related with the IMO regulations, otherwise it would not be easily enforceable by the member states, IBIA concludes.

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