IBIA is working steadfastly with our members toward a cleaner and greener global marine fuels industry

My 2021 calendar continues to be full of meetings and conferences connecting IBIA with our members, IMO delegates and organisations we share interests with, and deadlines for input to IMO’s work. Many of these engagements revolve around building the frameworks to move us toward a cleaner and greener future.

This is reflected in IBIA’s working groups, the subjects I speak about at IBIA’s conferences and member meetings, and events I am invited to speak at. It is also very much the case at the IMO, where I represent IBIA through submissions, input to correspondence groups that are developing IMO regulations and guidelines, and through IMO meeting participation.

‘Cleaner’ has a double meaning in this case. One part relates to the reputation of the bunker industry, which we all know could be better. In a market where almost everybody has to compete on price, it can be hard to maintain a high level of quality and service, while also meeting environmental and safety standards. IBIA supports efforts to set up effective bunker licencing schemes that are firm but fair, preferably incorporating massflow meter (MFM) technology in the world’s major bunker hubs. We have seen that they help in creating a level playing field for quality suppliers. Judging by the large number of participants in the IBIA Bunker Licensing & MFM working group, many of our members would also like to see effective and transparent bunker licensing schemes.

The other part of ‘cleaner’ is twinned with ‘greener’ and relates to reducing various forms of pollution to look after our environment. These days, that mainly revolves around fighting climate change.

Ensuring that our industry can provide shipping with fuels that comply with environmental regulations and safety standards, both now and in the future, requires huge efforts. Measures to reduce greenhouse gases from international shipping dominates the agenda at the Marine Environment Protection Committee. The GHG reduction drive is also evident in other IMO work to ensure the right safety provisions are put in place for ships to use a growing variety of fuels that produce fewer air pollutants and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.

The cleaning and greening of our industry will require cooperation and coordination across multiple stakeholders. We need to build understanding of what impacts and issues we might expect and need to resolve. We address these issues in the IBIA Future Fuels Working Group and the IBIA Technical Working Group; the latter is always involved in our input to IMO work relating to fuel safety, both for the oil-based fuels that still dominate the industry today, and for low-flashpoint fuels.

The European Commission has caused a stir by signalling its intentions to introduce a raft of new measures to speed up the transition to renewable and low-carbon fuels through the FuelEU Maritime proposal. I spent many, many hours studying thousands of pages that make up the “Fit for 55” package of proposals published in mid-July, which includes the FuelEU Maritime proposal. It raises a lot of questions and issues for marine fuel buyers and sellers, not just in Europe but globally. It aims to speed up the pace of decarbonisation, but the authors of these proposals realise that the energy transition for maritime transport needs to be gradual. They also think regulations will be required to push the industry in the right direction. I think we all understand and appreciate the intention behind these proposals, but it has ruffled many feathers that the EU is prepared to take these steps unilaterally, as opposed to through the IMO. The EU member states are, however, among those pushing for the IMO to move faster on concrete measures to reduce GHG. The IMO needs consensus among member states, or a majority, to adopt more stringent regulations addressing GHG emissions, and these are tough debates.

Looking at my speaking engagements since June this year, they have been quite varied and it has been a great honour to be invited. I took part in a CIMAC Tech-Talk where I did a presentation on the IMO regulatory framework for biofuels. I delivered two presentations at the St. Petersburg bunker forum; a review of the IMO 2020 impact on the global bunker market, and an overview of IMO regulations impacting the bunker industry. At the IBIA Conference in September, I presented and took part in a panel on IMO and the energy transition, and had a long conversation with Bud Darr of MSC on the subject, plus I moderated a panel on understanding VLSFO. During London International Shipping Week, I presented on Bunker Licencing at Petrospot’s Transparency in Bunkering Forum as part of a panel debate. I was invited to present at APPEC for the second year running, speaking about the regulatory road to decarbonising shipping. As this issue of World Bunkering goes to print, I am also preparing to participate as a panellist at the Carbon Forward 2021 conference to talk about the EUs Fit for 55 regulatory proposals. It goes to show how important carbon emissions are becoming to our sector.

I would like to mention another thing I did during the UK summer, in a personal capacity but nevertheless representing IBIA. On a sunny Saturday in June, I joined an international team of IMO delegates to do a 100 km bike ride in London’s Richmond Park. This is the fourth time I have taken part in the annual IMO Team fundraiser for the Mission to Seafarers. It felt good to be part of this team effort. We raised about £9,000 which will be spent to support seafarers around the world who have faced unprecedented challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. IBIA is also a co-sponsor of a paper urging IMO Member States and relevant authorities to commit to improving their plight by recognising seafarers as key workers and ensure they get priority access to vaccines, medical care and facilitation of travel to enable crew changes.

The theme for IBIA’s Annual Convention this year is “Shipping and Marine Energy: Evolution or Revolution?  I think pushing us toward a cleaner and greener future is an evolution, it cannot happen overnight, and it requires committed efforts from multiple stakeholders. But we can hope for revolutionary technical developments to help speed up the process.

Unni Einemo,

Director, IBIA

*This article was originally published in the Q3, 2021 issue of World Bunkering, IBIA’s official magazine.

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