Clarifying In-Port Sulphur Limits

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) has moved quickly to dispel the apparent confusion currently surrounding implementation of the EU directive requiring all ships to use low-sulphur fuel while at berth in EU ports.

EU Directive 2005/33/EC requires that, with effect from January 1, 2010, member states must take all necessary steps to ensure that ships at berth in EU ports do not use marine fuels with a sulphur content exceeding 0.1 per cent by mass. Although reports have been circulating in the industry that, because of the potential safety risks associated with the switchover on ships with unmodified boilers, the deadline may have been put back, IBIA stresses that such is not the case.

IBIA chief executive Ian Adams said, “We have heard various rumours, including one which suggests that the deadline for implementation of the EU directive has been postponed by six months. Nothing could be further from the truth. The directive came into force on January 1, and applies to all ships operating to EU ports.

“Ships are not exempt on the ground that the fuel changeover is unsafe because modifications have not been made to its boilers, or to the ship itself.  Clearly in such cases the expectation is not that the ship should engage in an unsafe practice but simply that it will not berth. Similarly, there is no automatic dispensation for ships which have made arrangements to carry out the necessary modifications but have not yet implemented them.

“There are very few exceptions to the rules. Although the European Commission has signified its awareness of the potential dangers associated with the switchover to low-sulphur fuel while in port, and has recommended to member states that they enforce the regulations with a degree of flexibility for a transitional period in those cases where there is detailed evidence of the existence of an approved plan for vessel and/or boiler modification, the directive is nevertheless now in force and EU member states are obliged to enforce it. This means that all non-compliant ships are at risk.”

IBIA concludes by emphasising that the operator of any ship bound for an EU port unable safely to comply with the EU directive should check with the relevant local authorities what control measures might be taken while the ship is berthed, before entering that port.


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