MEPC discusses bunker licensing

Two documents on bunker licensing were discussed at the 79th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 79), one of which was MEPC 79/INF.24 from IBIA and BIMCO.

The other document, MEPC 79/5, contained analysis of 2020 datasets from a bunker fuel testing company, highlighting geographical differences in relation to sulphur compliance for Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO). The paper invited Member States, individual ports and relevant intergovernmental organizations “to consider implementing and enforcing a licensing scheme for bunker suppliers operating within their jurisdiction to combat the high level of non-compliance in some poorer performing geographical regions,” also highlighting that Circular MEPC.1/Circ.884/Rev.1 on Guidance for Best practice for Member State/Coastal State provides an appendix with an indicative example of a bunker license for fuel oil supply (bunkering).

The Working Group on Air Pollution (WG) discussed both papers. It was clear that there is no appetite among most members states for making bunker licensing schemes mandatory, stressing it should remain voluntary. But there seemed to be growing acceptance that such licensing can improve market conditions, and a handful of countries supported mandatory licensing schemes.

The WG was reminded that regulation 18.9 of MARPOL Annex VI contains provisions regarding local suppliers of fuel oil, including obligations on Member States to carry out some monitoring and enforcement.

The WG report asked plenary to encourage Member States to make use of the revised Guidance for best practice for Member State/coastal State set out in circular MEPC.1/Circ.884/Rev.1; and invite interested Member States and international organisations to submit information on experience gained of the implementation of the guidance on best practice and relevant instruments to a future MEPC session.

As the WG report was presented in plenary, IBIA’s Director and IMO Representative, Unni Einemo, made the following statement:

“During discussions at the IMO about the implementation of a licensing scheme for bunker suppliers, we often hear the argument that it is entirely up to the bunker supplier to provide the right quality and quantity of fuels. We do not dispute that. But when quality-oriented bunker suppliers have to compete with companies that cut corners with little or no consequence, that is not a level playing field. That does not encourage best practices.

So, if you see value in having reliable and high standard bunker supply services, we recommend implementation of a well-designed and effectively enforced licensing system.”

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