Sulphur regulation enforcement explained at IBIA/UK Chamber of Shipping forum

Sulphur regulation enforcement explained at IBIA/UK Chamber of Shipping forum

Representatives from the Department of Transport, the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and Lloyd’s Register explained the current and future approach in the UK and European Union to enforcement of emission regulations for ships at the joint forum organised by IBIA and the UK Chamber of Shipping in April.

Attendees at the IBIA and UK Chamber of Shipping forum

Presenters on the subject were Ian Timpson, Senior Policy Advisor at the UK Department of Transport, Bennet Ng, Environmental Policy Specialist at the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and Tim Wilson, Principal Specialist, Fuels, Lubes and Exhaust Emissions, Lloyd’s Register.

Wilson started by saying the EU was relieved that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) decided to implement the global 0.50% sulphur cap in 2020. A delay to 2025 would have been more complex as the EU had already decided to implement a 0.50% sulphur limit for ships operating within EU waters in 2020.

The reason for the EU’s push to introduce stricter emission limits for ships is the EU Clean Air Policy objectives toward 2030, which were decided in 2013. Improving air quality in the EU and neighbouring countries is an essential policy objective for the EU, and shipping emissions will not escape scrutiny.

Timpson said the most urgent issue in the UK is reducing NOx emissions, but when it comes to sulphur emissions, the UK’s approach to enforcement complies with European Commission’s implementation decision (EU Implementing Decision 2015/253), which sets specific sulphur inspection targets for ports depending on whether they are inside an emission control area (ECA), bordering an ECA or fall outside an ECA. In line with this, the UK inspect at least 10% of ships calling and 30% of them have to have samples taken and tested for sulphur content, Timpson said.

As for sanctions, this is tricky in the UK as in many other EU countries. The UK cannot simply fine non-compliance; there are criminal sanctions but this is a time consuming and expensive process that could eventually result in the ship’s master or chief engineer going to jail. Timpson did, however, say there has been one incident where a vessel was required to debunker and lift compliant fuel before being allowed to leave.

Timpson and Wilson both spoke about the role of monitoring and enforcement techniques. At present, readings from hand-held testing devices and remote sensing technologies o so-called “sniffer” evidence cannot be used in court, that still requires a physical sample to be tested in an accredited fuel testing laboratory.

But the intention is clear: technology, in particular remote sensors, can be used to target vessels for sampling when in port. This way, the EU will eventually be able to adopt a cost-effective and risk based targeting approach where enforcement is focused on the right ships while operators with a good record should not be targeted for repeated inspections.

This approach will be helped by reporting all inspections undertaken in the EU and results from remote sensors to a joint database: THETIS-EU.

During 2015 and 2016, there were 16,000 sulphur inspections reported to THETIS-EU and the results indicated that overall compliance was at 95%, which includes not just fuels tested but also other non-compliance such as incorrect documentation. In 2015, fuels were sampled in 16% of all inspections while in 2016 that increased to 26%.

In the cases where fuel samples were analysed, the share of samples that failed to comply with the 0.10% sulphur limit that applies in ECAs and for ships at berth in EU ports was 3.6% in the Baltic Sea, 5.6% in the North Sea and 3.18% of samples taken from ships in EU ports outside ECAs.

Looking ahead, the MCA’s Bennet Ng focused on how to achieve effective implementation of the 0.50% sulphur cap in 2020 by ensuring consistent enforcement to secure a level playing field, which now looks set to be a priority at the IMO after making the 2020 decision.

Ng said any use of the non-availability clause in MARPOL Annex VI would have to be genuine and backed by good evidence there was no complaint fuel available for the ship to buy.

He said there are three parties to ensuring compliance with MARPOL Annex VI; the master and owner of ships, fuel oil suppliers and administrations.

The ship master and owner must ensure they have sufficient and correct purchasing information, understand fuel handling and use on-board, and ensure they have correct documentation and record keeping.

Bunker suppliers, meanwhile, will be expected to confirm the purchasing information and ensure fuel is delivered correctly, documentation control and record keeping, and to establish procedures for quality control and “non-disruptive delivery” to ships, according to Ng. He said the supplier will be expected to take more responsibility and must establish strong links with the fuel buyer to ensure the right information is exchanged.

The role of administrations to carry out the duty of enforcement, meanwhile, include maintaining a list of fuel oil suppliers, undertake sampling and testing of fuels used by and fuels delivered to ships. Ng said they will also be required to take a practical and reasonable response to non-availability situations and to facilitate implementation, including approval of alternative compliance methods such as abatement technologies.

Report by Unni Einemo

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