What’s happening at the IMO – an update on flashpoint and LNG bunkers

The 96th meeting of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 96) held in May had only a few items of specific interest to the marine fuels industry, but offered a good opportunity for IBIA to liaise with other industry organisations and member states.

One thing is now clear: the door has been firmly shut on the possibility of amending the flashpoint requirement in SOLAS. There have been attempts to revise the 60°C minimum for marine distillates and align it with the minimum flashpoint limit for automotive diesel, which is 52°C in the US and 55°C  in Europe.

MSC 96 rubber-stamped the decision that all safety concerns with regards to ships using low-flashpoint fuels should be addressed in the context of the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code).

MSC 96 also agreed to invite ISO to develop a standard LNG bunkering safety checklist.

The IGF Code provides a standard for ships using low flashpoint fuels, although at present it only deals specifically with LNG. When it enters into force on January 1, 2017, it will apply to all vessels above 500 gross tonnage that install low flash point fuel systems.

Specific regulations for other low-flashpoint fuels can be added as new chapters to the Code, but in the meantime, ships installing fuel systems to operate on other types of low flashpoint fuels will need to individually demonstrate that their design meet the Code’s general requirements.

The subcommittee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC), which met in September last year, has already made some progress on the development technical provisions in the IGF Code for the safety of ships using methyl/ethyl alcohol, or methanol, as fuel. 

It didn’t get very far on assessing the risks and implications of using diesel fuels with a flashpoint between 52°C and 60°C, and has yet to develop a work plan for how to develop a new chapter for this in the IGF Code.

MSC 96 also agreed to consider the suitability of high manganese austenitic steel for cryogenic service, which, according to a submission from South Korea, is superior to other material described in the IGC/IGF Codes and can help strengthen the structures of LNG tanks and pipelines on ships. This in turn could help improve the design of LNG carriers and ships using LNG as fuel, and make it more economic to build such vessels. This may require amendments to the IGC Code and IGF Code, in which case it is expected that the amendments to be developed should enter into force on 1 January 2020, provided that they are adopted before 1 July 2018. 

Unni Einemo, IMO Representative for IBIA


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