LPG, hydrogen, ammonia: Progress on IMO safety provisions for alternative fuels

First came IMO regulations for the safety of ships using LNG with the IGF Code. Next came IMO interim guidelines for methyl/ethyl alcohols (covering methanol), followed by IMO interim guidelines fuel cell power installations. Next in line for approval are interim guidelines for LPG, while work on hydrogen and ammonia is progressing.

IBIA took part in the 8th session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC 8) which took place from 14 to 23 September, including the CCC 8 working group tasked with development of guidelines for low-flashpoint fuels.

Top priority at CCC 8 was to finalise draft Interim Guidelines for the Safety of Ships Using LPG Fuels. These will be sent to the 107th meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 107) for approval, scheduled to take place in June 2023.

After finalising the work on LPG, the working group (WG) turned its attention to hydrogen. Here, the WG considered only main concepts and principles, and identified items needing special attention by the Correspondence Group (CG) that progresses the work of CCC between sessions.

Turning next to the development of guidelines for ships using ammonia as fuel, the WG agreed, in general, that these should follow the structure of the IGF Code. The WG recognised and agreed, however, that ammonia has a very different risk profile compared to LNG. Explosion is the main risk with LNG. When dealing with ammonia, toxicity and corrosivity are the most important risks to address. Moreover, the environmental effects of ammonia will need to be addressed.

CCC 8 did not work on interim guidelines for the use of oil fuels with a flashpoint between 52°C and 60°C, covering oil-based fossil fuels, synthetic fuels, biofuels and any mixture of these. This work has stalled chiefly due to a raft of new safety concerns being raised by some parties. There have also been calls by some to drop any further work on this as there has not been a shortage of distillate fuels meeting the minimum 60°C flashpoint limit in SOLAS to meet demand for lower sulphur fuels.

IBIA and others have fought to keep this work on the agenda and make progress, and to expand the scope, which was originally covering only oil-based fossil fuels, to include synthetic fuels, biofuels and blends. We have emphasised that such fuels are already used in other sectors, and will likely play an increasingly important role in decarbonising transport fuels, including fuels for international shipping. Moreover, fuels with lower flashpoint have been used by ships on inland waterways.

CCC 8 agreed to continue work on the development of technical provisions for safety of ships using alternative fuels in an intersessional Correspondence Group.

The Correspondence Group’s tasks are:

-further develop the draft interim guidelines for ships using hydrogen as fuel,
– develop interim guidelines for the use of oil fuels with a flashpoint between 52°C and 60°C, covering oil-based fossil fuels, synthetic fuels, biofuels and any mixture thereof, and
– develop Interim Guidelines for the safety of ships using ammonia as fuel.

IBIA is taking part in this Correspondence Group with the assistance of the IBIA Technical Working Group. IBIA members who wish to be involved and are not already kept informed via the IBIA Technical Working Group can send a mail to IBIA’s IMO Representative Unni Einemo: unni@ibia.net

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