Conference takeaways: IBC 38 looks at 2020

Conference takeaways: IBC 38 looks at 2020

IBC 38 conference chairman Niels Bjorn Mortensen by the Great Belt bridge (Photo: Unni Einemo)

The International Bunker Conference is under new management and chose a fresh new twist to the event by taking the 38th IBC out to sea aboard the enormous 5-star cruise ferry Color Fantasy. IBC 38 set sail from Oslo in the afternoon on 26 April, returning on the morning of 28 April after a round-trip to Kiel. In the meantime, IBC 38 delegates had enjoyed two lunches, two dinners, and two splendid evening musical shows staged in the ship’s large internal amphitheatre. During the daytime, the conference chairman Niels Bjorn Mortensen and a selection of speakers were the stars of the show as IBC 38 took over the stage in that very same amphitheatre.

The theme for IBC 38 was “2020 – The day after tomorrow” and the focus was very much on how the industry is preparing for the 0.50% sulphur limit, and trying to understand how the regulation can be effectively and fairly implemented. Many well-known speakers shared their views, including IBIA’s chairman Robin Meech of Marine Energy and Consulting Ltd and IBIA’s IMO Representative, Unni Einemo.

Here are some of the main takeaways:

  • The official IMO availability study concluded that there will be sufficient refinery capacity to produce low sulphur fuels for shipping in 2020, but there are concerns that those won’t translate into real availability for the marine fuels market as this is not the primary market for refiners.
  • There are concerns about the quality of 0.50% sulphur fuel blends, and also that there will be a huge number of different products that will be incompatible. Non-compatibility of fuels is not a new issue so ships should have procedures to deal with it, but is expected to become more of a challenge.
  • Will a ship be able to claim non-availability of compliant fuel if the only compliant fuel available in a port is unsuitable for that ship’s fuel system? This is not known, but the application of the non-availability clause in MARPOL Annex VI needs to be carefully examined at the IMO.
  • Owners are not yet preparing for 2020, largely because they have no money to spend and are struggling simply to stay in business.
  • Uncertainty about compliance levels may slow down the uptake of scrubbers. Uncertainty about compliance and scrubber uptake may also hold back refinery efforts to meet demand for 0.50% demand
  • Early scrubber investments will have the quickest payback, but the peak for scrubber installation is not expected until after 2020
  • Supply is becoming increasingly complex because of the many product types that must be stored in segregated tanks.
  • One of the key differentiators between low sulphur fuels is whether or not the fuel needs heating. This may be taken into account for the next revision of ISO 8217
  • One of the main challenges will be to enforce the sulphur regulations globally. The effectiveness of enforcement and good level of compliance seen in ECAs may not translate to the global scene. Enforcement at sea is particularly uncertain.
  • Norway has been proactive in detecting and fining ships for sulphur violations, taking samples from about 5% of all vessels calling at its ports. Non-compliance among inspected vessels was around 5% in 2015 and 2.5 % in 2016, but there has been an increasing trend in 2017.
  • Color Line has chosen scrubbers for the 4 largest out of its 6 ships, which are all operating 100% inside ECAs. This means its fuel mix is approximately 75% HSFO and 25% MGO. It is also very focused on saving fuel. It has mainly good experience with using scrubbers and also shore power.
  • Remote sensors, or sniffers, are a promising technology for detecting non-compliance. The ones used on drones have to be very small and light and need to be very close to the ship’s plume and have so far not been very reliable, but the fixed installations near shipping lanes are effective up to 7 km away from the ship. About 3.8% of ships passing under the sniffer installed on the Great Belt bridge indicated that the ship was using fuel exceeding 0.15% sulphur, which is the sensitivity limit for this sniffer. Malfunctioning scrubbers have been detected on several occasions.

As the Color Fantasy sailed under the Great Belt bridge, IBC 38 delegates gathered for a champagne toast on the upper deck. We trust that the scrubber on the ship was functioning as it should and that the sniffer installed on the bridge picked up only harmless bubbles as we passed beneath it.

There will be a fuller report from IBC 38 in the autumn issue of IBIA’s official magazine, World Bunkering, which will also be distributed at IBIA’s annual convention in Singapore.

IBC 38 took centre stage aboard the Color Fantasy
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