Singapore points to marginal breaches of 2020 sulphur cap with two detentions

The transition of the global shipping industry to fuels compliant with the IMO 2020 sulphur cap seems to be running smoothly with marginal non-compliance issues.

Illustration: Source: Wartsila

According to the Port of Singapore, the world’s largest bunker hub and one of the largest trading hubs in the world, about 96% of the ships that arrived in the port used compliant fuel.

This excludes ships installed with open-loop scrubbers that switch to using compliant fuel upon arriving in the port.

In the first quarter of 2020, MPA Singapore carried out a total of 326 port state control and flag state control inspections that found that 12 ships, which were not fitted with scrubbers, were using fuel that marginally exceeded the sulphur limit.

Illustration: Source: Wartsila

“This was likely due to remnant residues of high-sulphur fuel in the fuel oil tanks and piping. It is expected that in time, the fuel oil tanks and piping will be properly flushed with the continual use of compliant fuel. MPA had informed the respective managers and flag administrations of these ships about the non-compliance,” the port authority said.

Two foreign-registered ships were detained for using non-compliant fuel. The port authority said that the ships were only allowed to depart from the port after it was verified that they had switched to using compliant fuel.

All scrubber-fitted ships were complying with the port’s ban on the discharge of wash water from open-loop scrubbers, and no ship installed with an open-loop scrubber was found to be operating its scrubber in the port.

To remind, the Port of Singapore announced in 2018 that it would introduce the ban when the 2020 fuel oil sulphur limit enters into force, i.e., January 1, 2020.

The move has been attributed to the port’s efforts aimed at protecting the marine environment and ensuring port waters were clean.

As a result, ships fitted with open-loop scrubbers calling at Singapore are required to use compliant fuel, while ships fitted with hybrid scrubbers are required to switch to the closed-loop mode of operation.

During the quarter, two Singapore-registered ships reported the non-availability of compliant fuel and submitted the required Fuel Oil Non-Availability Report.

Amongst the small number of Singapore-registered ships installed with scrubbers, there were 31 reports of scrubber malfunction as of February 29, 2020, the port said.

The implementation of the IMO 2020 was expected to dominate the narrative this year, with numerous issues being raised about the availability and quality of new fuels.

However, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its relentless spreading the importance of this issue has been eclipsed by the struggles of maritime stakeholders to keep trade running.

In the wake of the ongoing situation and its impact on the global supply chain, equipment deliveries, combined with shipyard lockdowns and travel restrictions, port state controls have introduced measures to extend compliance with certain rules and have been more flexible in enforcing regulations.

Port state controls check visiting foreign ships to verify their compliance with international rules on safety, pollution prevention and seafarers’ living and working conditions.

The port state can require deficiencies to be corrected, and detain the ship for this purpose, if necessary.

The pandemic has seen the enforcement of these rules being somewhat relaxed as vessel surveys had to be delayed and seafarers’ had their stay on board ships extended due to travel restrictions.

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