IBIA urges IMO Member Governments to apply amendments to MARPOL sulphur verification procedures

IBIA urges IMO Member Governments to apply amendments to MARPOL sulphur verification procedures

IBIA welcomes the adoption of amendments to MARPOL Annex VI at the 75th session of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 75), which met virtually from Monday 16 to Friday 20 November 2020.

On the first day of MEPC 75, IBIA’s Director and IMO Representative, Unni Einemo, urged Member Governments to apply the amendments to MARPOL Annex VI to the verification procedure for a MARPOL Annex VI fuel oil sample prior to their entry into force to ensure a consistent approach to verifying sulphur limit compliance without delay, in line with Circular MEPC.1/Circ.882 issued by MEPC 74 in 2019.

The full statement, which will be appended to the final report of the meeting, is copied below.

In line with IMO practice prior to adopting regulatory amendments, it went through an editorial review by a drafting group. The final text was formally adopted on Friday 20 November.

It includes, in the preamble to the regulatory text, a reminder about Circular MEPC.1/Circ.882 and invites the Parties to consider the early application of all the amendments made to MARPOL Annex VI, which includes changes to Regulation 1,2,14,18,20 and 21 plus appendix I, Form of International Air Pollution Prevention (IAPP) Certificate and appendix VI, Fuel verification procedure for MARPOL Annex VI fuel oil samples.

The amendments are expected to enter into force 1 April 2022, how3ever IBIA hopes the reminder in the preamble regarding MEPC.1/Circ.882 may improve the chances of Member Governments applying them without delay, which would alleviate problems that the industry is experiencing today.

IBIA statement to MEPC 75

IBIA has some observations and experiences to share with regards to the draft amendments to Appendix VI on Verification procedures for a MARPOL Annex VI fuel oil sample. which the committee is invited to consider and adopt this week.

The concept of test precision can be hard to grasp. Many find it hard to understand that a test result of 0.53% sulphur does not conclusively prove that the fuel fails to meet the 0.50% sulphur limit. However, all test methods have limitations with regards to their accuracy, with specific reproducibility and Repeatability values calculated in accordance with ISO 4259. For sulphur, the accuracy of the test method, known as 95% confidence, means that fuel oil with a true value of 0.50% sulphur may give a test result of up to 0.53% in a laboratory.

These statistically sound test precision principles have been taken into account for verifying if samples of fuel oil in use, and samples of fuel oil carried for use on board a ship, meet the relevant sulphur limits of regulation 14. This is reflected in the amendment to appendix VI under the Verification Procedure Part 2 for in-use and onboard samples. We support this wholeheartedly. We remain concerned, however, that the same principles are not recognised for the MARPOL delivered sample, which will significantly increase the risk that a fuel oil that is actually compliant with MARPOL sulphur limits can, on the basis of testing by one laboratory, be deemed as having failed to meet the requirement. These concerns were laid out in detail in MEPC 74/10/11 by IPIECA and IBIA.

We have always feared that the complexity in having different approaches to sulphur verification for MARPOL delivered samples versus in-use and on board samples would cause unintended confusion and conflict. Experience so far suggests that this is indeed the case.

Since the 0.50% sulphur limit took effect, there have been cases of ships that have received a test result on their own bunker manifold inlet sample indicating a sulphur content above 0.50%, but not above 0.53%. Ships may have documented such test results as indicative of a potential non-compliance through a notification to its flag administration. Copies of the notification may also be sent to authorities at its next port of call, and the Administration under whose jurisdiction the bunker supplier is located, and to the bunker supplier.

We have heard from our members that some flag states have been advising ships to not use the fuel if the ship has a test result from its own sample indicating potential non-compliance, e.g. 0.51% to 0.53% sulphur. There are also fears that port State authorities will not take 95% confidence into account for in-use and on-board samples. This has created a lot of problems and uncertainty for the shipping and fuel oil supply industries, including demands to debunker fuels which have not been proven as non-compliant by the appropriate verification procedures stipulated under MARPOL Annex VI. Debunkering is not a trivial matter. Apart from substantial financial costs, it also carries an environmental cost through extra CO2 emissions, and represents safety and environmental risks.

IMO guidelines for consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit, and the revision of appendix VI of MARPOL Annex VI, make it absolutely clear that the 95% confidence principle for test precision should be applied to in-use and on board samples. This principle was sufficiently important to prompt this committee to agree, at MEPC 74, to issue a circular, MEPC.1/Circ.882, inviting Member Governments to apply approved amendments to MARPOL Annex VI related to the verification procedure for a MARPOL Annex VI fuel oil sample in advance of their entry into force, in order to “ensure a consistent approach to verifying the sulphur limit of the fuel oil delivered to, in-use or carried for use on board a ship until the entry into force of the approved amendments.”

A consistent approach does not appear to be happening. It really, really needs to happen.

Let me be very clear about the expectations on suppliers: no fuel should be put on the market if it has tested above the limit even by a fraction prior to delivery, and the blend target to meet the 0.50% sulphur limit during production should be no more than 0.47%, in line with best practice guidance.

However, when it comes to sulphur verification under appendix VI of MARPOL Annex VI, having two different procedures will inevitably cause confusion in how the regulation is understood and applied. The signals are confusing. We all know the meaning of green and red traffic lights, but yellow seems to mean ‘keep going’ for one type of samples and ‘stop’ for another.

We need to make sure everybody understands that as far as the ship is concerned, a yellow signal means “keep going”. We believe this is enshrined in the amendments to appendix VI that are up for adoption and as such urge Member States to apply these amendments prior to entry into force.

Furthermore, we would recommend making the following principles clear: If an authority decides to test the MARPOL delivered sample, it will determine whether the fuel as delivered meets the relevant requirement. If the fuel tests above 0.50% sulphur and as such has not met the requirement as delivered, it should nevertheless be considered as having met the requirement for the ship to use, or carry for use, unless the test result exceeds 0.53% sulphur. This would be in line with the MARPOL Annex VI sulphur verification procedure for in-use and onboard samples.

We believe these issues needed to be brought to the Committee’s attention, and that they demonstrate the need for further IMO guidance to bring clarity on how to determine compliance for all parties concerned.

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