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FONARs not a ‘free pass’ to use non-compliant fuels from 2020, ICS warns

ICS deputy secretary general Simon Bennett
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has warned that shipowners issued with a Fuel Oil Non Availability Report (FONAR) do not mean they have a ‘free pass’ to use non-compliant bunker fuel from 2020.

The warning by ICS came as the UK-based trade association welcomed a decision in principle by the IMO that safety or operational concerns about the quality of low sulphur fuels may, in exceptional circumstances, be a valid reason for shipowners to be issued with a FONAR when the 0.5% fuel sulphur content global regulation is enforced from 1 January 2020.

“FONARs remain a tool of last resort and are not something that a ship will be able to use routinely,” said ICS deputy secretary general Simon Bennett.

“The circumstances in which a FONAR can be used are very limited and conditions attached to their use will be strict. Shipowners still need to remain focused on doing everything possible to ensure full compliance in 2020,” he said.

ICS foresees it is possible that in some ports worldwide shipowners may initially encounter quality or compatibility problems with the new 0.5% blended fuels. But ICS emphasises that the higher cost of alternative compliant fuels – including 0.1% distillates if they are available – will not be considered as a valid basis for claiming non-availability of safe and compliant fuels.

Read more: Sulphur 2020 tank cleaning challenge could cost billions

The trade association further warned that only the minimum possible of non-compliant fuel should be bunkered if a FONAR is issued, as it is likely that any remaining non-compliant fuel will be required by Port State Control (PSC) to be debunkered at the next port of call, and cannot be used on subsequent voyages.

PSC will also take into consideration the number of FONARs a ship has submitted in the past 12 months, as well as the number the operator has submitted for other ships in its fleet and whether other ships on similar voyages have submitted FONAR reports, ICS reminded.

“Above all else, the onus will be on the ship operator to provide documentary evidence that every reasonable step has been taken to ensure compliant bunkers will be available in the planned bunkering port,” Bennett concluded.

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