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Q&A: Bahri President on IMO 2020, environmental concerns and alternative fuels

As environmental concerns drive a push for alternatives fuels, what has been learnt since the implementation of the Sulphur 2020 cap? As part of Saudi Maritime Congress 2020, leading industry executives look at what this will mean for shipping and the impact on the alternative fuel landscape.

In this Q&A, Eng. Abdulaziz Sabri, President, Bahri Ship Management discusses what alternatives, including battery power, will be available in the near future and whether shipowners and fuel suppliers are prepared for a changing energy landscape.

Why do you view ‘The Fuel Revolution to 2050’ as an important conversation point for the industry?

As you know, the IMO has mandated a reduction of at least 50% in greenhouse gas emissions from the levels in 2008. This is a huge challenge for all of us connected with the shipping industry. It is something that will require close cooperation between various parties – from developing new technologies to having clear regulations. Over the next 30 years, we expect that global shipping trade will grow tremendously and unless we improve the performance of each ship by better design and operations, we will not be able to fulfil this wonderful vision of making the environment sustainable for the future generations. And that is why, all of us who are involved, must work together towards that vision. It is not an easy task and the sooner all of us realise the immense challenge it poses, the better it will be.

Following implementation of the IMO sulphur cap on 1 January 2020, have the issues regarding the potential for non-compliance and availability and quality of low-sulphur fuel been overstated?

Absolutely not. The IMO Sulphur 2020 cap was a major regulatory challenge that all of us in the shipping industry – from bunker suppliers to ship owners / managers to ship’s crew and officers - have had to deal with. While the potential for non-compliance was much reduced by early planning and implementation by most shipping companies either by switching to compliant fuels or by installing scrubbers, the availability of good quality compliant bunkers in many ports is still very restricted. With different blends and viscosities available in the market, the risks of damages to the engines are still quite high. We will continue to exercise due diligence with the compliant bunkers as we are still not assured of good quality at each and every port.

How confident are you that the IMO can reach agreement on a full strategy and roadmap to reach its own 2050 goals?

It is indeed a huge challenge to develop the full strategy and the roadmap. Since there are so many parties involved and there is a potential economical impact for ship owners and operators, it will obviously be difficult and will require a lot of discussions before an agreement can be reached. However, the IMO is extremely committed to achieving these targets. Over the years the IMO has approved amendments to strengthen existing mandatory requirements; initiated studies and encouraged cooperation between port states and other stake holders. I am quite confident that in the coming years we shall see more developments in this area and a clearer strategy will be established.

Which upcoming alternative fuel sources do you think will make an impact on the industry over the coming years?

In order to achieve at least 50 percent reduction in annual GHG emissions by 2050, we need to reduce CO2 emissions by almost 85%, for which zero -carbon fuels are essential.

While there has been a growing focus on fuels such as LNG and Methanol, I understand that sources such as Ammonia and Hydrogen are showing a lot of potential which is being explored.

Why do you think it’s important to participate in events like Saudi Maritime Congress? 

Events like the Saudi Maritime Congress bring together leading companies and entities in the maritime sector under one roof. This gives everyone an opportunity to connect, exchange ideas and views in order to cooperate and bring about positive changes. Events such as these are special to the Kingdom as there is a strong push towards developing this sector as we march on the path to achieve the Kingdom’s 2030 vision.