MSC endorses IBIA proposal to clarify new flashpoint regulation

IBIA’s proposal for a unified interpretation (UI) of new regulatory text about documentation of flashpoint in SOLAS chapter II-2 received overwhelming support at the 107th session of the IMO’s Martine Safety Committee (MSC 107).

Our paper, MSC 107/6/2, provided a UI to help clarify the meaning of the SOLAS amendment that was adopted at MSC 106 regarding the supplier’s declaration of flashpoint prior to delivery, and on the bunker delivery note (BDN). This SOLAS amendment is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2026.

We also suggested that MSC should invite the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to adopt a corresponding UI for a corresponding new requirement under appendix V of MARPOL Annex VI, which is due to enter into force on 1 May 2024.

Introducing the paper at MSC 107, IBIA Director and IMO Representative Unni Einemo said: “During deliberations at the Drafting Group at MSC 106 prior to adoption of the amendments, and subsequently in interactions with industry participants, it has become evident that while this is perfectly clear and logical to those who have participated in developing the regulatory text, it is not equally clear to relevant stakeholders who are not familiar with the thinking behind it; including port State control officers, ship engineers and oil fuel suppliers. That means, the amendments could be open to misunderstandings, which is concerning and unhelpful if various parties have different ideas about what the regulation actually means. We have therefore proposed a UI to help provide clarity.”

MSC 107 noted overwhelming support for the UI proposed by IBIA in document MSC 107/6/2 and that concurrent action should be recommended to MEPC. However, one delegation raised concerns, meaning the UI could not be approved as a UI can only be approved if there are no objections at all.

Given the strong support in plenary, however, MSC 107 sent IBIA’s proposal to the Working Group (WG) on Fuel Oil Safety established at MSC 107 to further consider the document and advise the Committee how best to proceed.

The new Regulation 4.6 of SOLAS chapter II-2 says that “ships carrying oil fuel shall prior to bunkering be provided with a declaration signed and certified by the oil fuel supplier’s representative, that the oil fuel to be supplied is in conformity with paragraph 2.1 of this regulation, and the test method used for determining the flashpoint. A bunker delivery note for the oil fuel delivered to the ship shall contain either the flashpoint specified in accordance with standards acceptable to the Organization, or a statement that the flashpoint has been measured at or above 70ºC;” 

IBIA proposed the following Unified Interpretation:  

The test method will provide a specified temperature when an ignition source produces a “flash” in the sample. If this flash occurs when the sample has been heated to a temperature below 70°C, this temperature should be reported on the bunker delivery note. If, however, the sample is heated to 70°C and then tested without producing a flash, there will not be an actual measured flashpoint temperature to report, but this is sufficient to establish that the flashpoint is above the 60°C minimum and thus allow for a statement to be made that the flashpoint has been measured at or above 70°C. If heating and testing of the sample has been carried out beyond 70°C and produced a flash, there will be a specific temperature that can be reported, but it should be understood that undertaking or continuing the test beyond 70°C is not required.

One delegation expressed a concern specifically about the part reading: “but it should be understood that undertaking or continuing the test beyond 70°C is not required.” This delegation seemed to think that this would materially change the regulation. During discussions in the WG it became clear, however, that their objection related to the regulation itself, as the delegation was of the opinion that the regulation should require the BDN to state the actual flashpoint of fuels delivered to a ship, even when that temperature is above 70°C.

Nevertheless, in order to reach agreement, the WG agreed to delete that part of the sentence. After removing that part of the text, MSC 107 endorsed the remaining text as a “mutual understanding” subject to the entry into force of SOLAS regulation II-2/, and invited the MEPC to note the decision and take action as appropriate.

IBIA understands that MEPC 81, which is scheduled to take place in late April next year, will be invited to consider the text endorsed by MSC 107.

MEPC 81 is scheduled to take place just prior to the entry into force of amendments to MARPOL Annex VI regarding flashpoint documentation on the BDN.

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