ICS welcomes IMO FONAR decision

International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Deputy Secretary General Simon Bennett International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) Deputy Secretary General Simon Bennett

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has welcomed the International Maritime Organization's decision in principle 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 Fuel Oil Non Availability Report (FONAR) from 1 January 2020, after the IMO global sulphur cap comes into force.

However, the decision by the IMO Sub Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response which met from 18-22 February 2019 does not water down restrictions on the use or carriage of non-compliant fuel.

“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.”

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

ICS has recently updated its guidance on ‘Compliance with the 2020 Global Sulphur Cap’ which states that ships will be expected to bunker and use other compliant fuels including 0.10% Smax distillates in cases where 0.50% Smax fuels are unavailable. ICS advises that a FONAR should not be considered as an exemption from the relevant sulphur limits. According to MARPOL, it is up to PSC authorities that receive the FONAR at the next port of call to take into account all relevant circumstances and the evidence presented to determine whether or not to detain the ship. 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 reiterates that shipowners must urgently prepare their ship specific implementation plans for 2020 using the IMO template adopted at the industry’s request, and the detailed advice already prepared by ICS which it is now updating again to take account of recent IMO decisions. This will be vital to reduce the possibility of teething problems or in the event of initial PSC difficulties due to factors beyond the shipowner’s control.

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