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Availability of low sulphur fuel a top concern for shipowners

Availability of low sulphur fuel a top concern for shipowners
Availability of low sulphur fuel was a major concern for many attending the Greener Shipping Summit 2017 - refiners are confident they will be able to meet the demand, but the changeover cannot occur overnight delegates were told.

While IMO’s decision to reduce the bunker fuel specification to 0.5% from 1 January 2020 is clear, "there remains a great deal of uncertainty around the regulatory framework, much of which may not become any clearer until 2019" Sara Lawrence, global technical manager, Shell Marine, warned at the conference in Athens.

"What is clear is that this industry change could result in up to 300m barrels per day of HSFO being displaced by 0.5% sulphur fuel," she said.

Kostas Vlachos, coo of one of Greece’s most innovative owners, the Spiros Latsis-backed Consolidated Marine Management, said the changeover cannot occur “overnight” without serious economic consequences.

"All stakeholders, regulators, refineries, owners, associations, makers and states, have to play a very important and critical role for the effective, efficient and soft implementation."

He noted there are various options available for implementation along with respective challenges and the pros and cons of each one of them must be considered carefully prior to the final decision taken. "On the other hand the refineries based on actual demand vs supply data shall decide for the proper investments timely so that compliant fuels would be available," he said.

Shell's Lawrence maintained "refineries are starting to prepare and will be ready". “In reality all fuel options will have a role to play in meeting the legislation,” she said. "It is our view that at least initially, a significant portion of this will be 0.5% fuel oils that are likely to differ from traditional fuel oils and therefore similar challenges to those seen for the 0.1% ECA fuel should be anticipated," she said.

She was confident Shell would be able to supply across the fuel options, adding the lubricant choice is determined by the fuel choice, the engine type and the operation. "Changes in fuels and lubricants and the increased uncertainty re-emphasises the need for robust technical services, which can help to reduce risk and minimise costs," said Lawrence.

Maria Kyratsoudi, fuel oil bunker specialist at Lloyd's Register, said as we head towards 2020 it will be costly and those who decide to wait and ignore what is coming will create serious commercial distortion. "Using distillate fuels and ultra low sulphur fuel oils, is the most possible scenario for compliance for the majority of the owners," she thought.

LR has "already experienced compatibility and cold flow property issues as well problems with the variation of the quality of these specific fuels in several key parameters. New ISO 8217:2017 addresses changing natures of the marine fuel products, with the future likely to see more synthetic and renewables blended into the predominantly hydrocarbon fuels.

"It will be a gradual transition to a decreasingly conventional fuel mix to new types of fuels or means of compliance. Definitely there will not be a single solution for everyone," said Kyratsoudi.