Updates to IMO regulations for low flashpoint fuels

Work is continuing at the IMO to update the IGF Code, the regulatory framework enabling ships to use low flashpoint fuels safely.

LPG and low flashpoint oil fuels are next on the list following the adoption of interim guidelines covering methanol, along with development of guidelines for fuel cell power installations. These are being worked at by an Intersessional Correspondence Group on Low Flashpoint Fuels, which IBIA is participating in.  

The IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee, at its 102nd session (4 to 11 November 2020), approved changing the target completion year of the existing output on “Amendments to the IGF Code and development of guidelines for low-flashpoint fuels” to “continuous”, taking into account the work plan for the next phase of the development of the IGF Code. This work is undertaken by the Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC).

During discussion at MSC 102, the view was raised that the work on low-flashpoint fuels should be accelerated and be given greater priority and resources, because there is an urgent need to find guidelines for a number of alternative fuels that can help the industry cut greenhouse gas emissions. A lack of safety regulations for fuels other than LNG is hampering progress and there is a bottleneck now, it was said.

It is indeed the case that the IGF Code was developed for ships to use LNG as fuel, but it is in fact possible to apply it to any type of low flashpoint fuel demonstrating compliance with the Code through an alternative design. That is, however, sub-optimal as the safety requirements for LNG are so different from other types of low flashpoint fuels.

Methanol is now addressed specifically after the adoption of Interim Guidelines for the use of methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel at MSC 102, but there is still a lot of work remaining on developing guidelines under the IGF Code for other types of low flashpoint fuels.

MSC 102 also made other decisions relevant to the IGF Code as follows:Adopted MSC.1/Circ.1622: Interim guidelines for the safety of ships using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel

Adopted amendments to the IGF Code by resolution MSC.475(102).
The amendments were to sections 6 (Fuel containment system), 11 (Fire safety) and 16 (Manufacture, workmanship and testing) of the IGF Code, concerning regulations for the pressure relief system and fuel preparation room fire-extinguishing systems, and the welding of metallic materials and non-destructive testing for the fuel containment system. The adopted amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 January 2024.

Approved MSC.1/Circ.1622 on Guidelines for the acceptance of alternative metallic materials for cryogenic service in ships carrying liquefied gases in bulk and ships using gases or other low-flashpoint fuels.

Approved MSC.1/Circ.1599/Rev.1 Revised Interim guidelines on the application of high manganese austenitic steel for cryogenic service.

Report by Unni Einemo

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