IMO to develop guidelines for safe use of ammonia

IMO to develop guidelines for safe use of ammonia

Work will commence at the IMO to develop guidelines for the safety of ships using ammonia as fuel.

The 105th session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 105), which met from 20 to 29 April, agreed that the IMO should add “Development of non-mandatory guidelines for safety of ships using ammonia as fuel” to its work programme.

The work will be undertaken by the Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC), with a target completion year of 2023. Once developed by the CCC Sub-Committee, the guidelines will be sent to MSC for approval.

As the IMO works on both environmental and safety aspects of alternative fuels that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping, there was general support for the proposal.

During the discussion at MSC 105 last week, some Members States suggested that the ammonia guidelines should be added to the CCC’s existing, continuous work item on “Amendments to the IGF Code and development of guidelines for low-flashpoint fuels” as this might speed up the process.  

IBIA participates in CCC meetings and a correspondence group working on IGF Code amendments and low-flashpoint fuels, which has already started collecting information on ammonia. CCC is considering a range of low-flashpoint fuels under this work-item, including LPG and oil-based fuels with a flashpoint below the 60°C SOLAS limit.

IBIA told MSC 105 in plenary that we were not sure the IGF Code work-stream is the right place to consider ammonia, as it does not appear to be a low flash-point fuel, but that we fully support the new output on ammonia whichever way CCC decides to deal with it.

The key safety concerns for using ammonia as fuel include its toxic effects, both for shipboard and nearby personnel and to marine life (in case of release). Explosion is also a risk, as although ammonia is hard to ignite it may create explosive atmosphere in storage tanks. Corrosion is also an issue.

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