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Greek shipowners applaud IMO decision to examine safety implications of 2020 sulphur cap fuels

Greek shipowners have been quick to applaud the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) decision to consider safety implications associated with the 2020 marine fuels and their respective challenges.

Within hours of the July 9 - 13 Intersessional Working Group rising the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) has issued a statement of support of the session's decision to examine "several valid safety concerns linked to the transition to new low-sulphur fuels, especially blended fuels".

Noting they are expected to be widely used to ensure compliance with the 0.5% global sulphur cap for marine fuels, which enters into force 1 January 2020, the UGS said safety concerns relate to fuel stability, incompatibility between different batches of blended fuels, lower flashpoints than the minimum required by Solas, inadequate safety margins for cat fines and extended ignition delays due to poor combustion characteristics, to name but a few.

"Failure to address these challenges would result in a real and major threat to ships’ crews and machinery and, by extension, to the marine environment. Moreover, as the 2020 deadline is fast approaching, safety-related concerns are compounded by serious doubts over the worldwide availability of safe compliant fuel.]," said the UGS.

A Marshall Islands submission, co-sponsored by Liberia and international shipping organisations, called on the IMO to address the significant challenges associated with transitioning to bunker fuels of low-sulphur content and received the support of many IMO member states and observer organisations.

Read more: Shipping industry organisations call for progress on key sulphur cap issues at IMO

UGS president, Theodore Veniamis said: “The new rules are a game changer for shipowners, operators and refineries. There are many variables that may impact on the consistent compliance by ships, which means that the implementation of the new rules will not be straightforward. The IMO has demonstrated pragmatism in supporting a practical and realistic approach going forward."

Veniamis said: “Greek shipowners are actively working towards compliance with the requirements of the new IMO 0.5% sulphur limit. It is, however, crucial related stakeholders also exert all efforts to provide the shipping industry with the necessary means for the achievement of this goal.

"It is equally crucial new bunker fuels do not jeopardise the safety of life at sea. Marine fuels used post-2020 should not only be compliant in terms of sulphur content, but must also be fit for use, without compromising the ships’ and crews’ safety," said Veniamis.

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