The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said it fears "chaos and confusion" unless the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO) urgently resolves some serious issues concerning the implementation of the 0.5 percent sulphur in marine fuel cap, which is scheduled to come into effect globally overnight on January 1, 2020.
Such chaos would have serious consequences for the movement of the world’s energy, raw materials and manufactured products – about 90 percent of global trade being carried by sea. This was the principal conclusion of the Annual General Meeting of ICS’s member national shipowner associations which met in Hong Kong last week.
"The shipping industry fully supports the IMO global sulphur cap and the positive environmental benefits it will bring, and is ready to accept the significant increase in fuel costs that will result", said ICS Chairman Esben Poulsson in Hong Kong. "But unless a number of serious issues are satisfactorily addressed by governments within the next few months, the smooth flow of maritime trade could be dangerously impeded.
"It is still far from certain that sufficient quantities of compliant fuels will be available in every port worldwide by January 1, 2020. And in the absence of global standards for many of the new blended fuels that oil refiners have promised, there are some potentially serious safety issues due to the use of incompatible bunkers.
"Governments, oil refiners and charterers of ships responsible for meeting the cost of bunkers all need to understand that ships will need to start purchasing compliant fuels several months in advance of January 1, 2020. But at the moment no one knows what types of fuel will be available or at what price, specification or in what quantity. Unless everyone gets to grips with this quickly we could be faced with an unholy mess with ships and cargo being stuck in port."
ICS emphasises that governments will need to make significant progress on these issues at a critical IMO meeting in July about the impending global sulphur cap, to which ICS – in cooperation with other international industry associations – will be making a number of detailed technical submissions to assist successful implementation of what ICS describes as a regulatory game changer.