New Sulphur Fuel Regulations from 1 January 2015

19 December 2014

As from 1 January 2015, all ocean going vessels travelling within the Emission Control Areas (the “ECAs” as defined in the MARPOL Convention, including the English Channel, Baltic Sea, North Sea, North American and US Caribbean Sea areas) must use fuel oil with less than 0.1% sulphur. The controls apply to all fuel oil, defined in MARPOL Annex VI Regulation 2.9 as “any fuel delivered to and intended for combustion purposes for propulsion or operation on board a ship including distillate and residual fuels”. More information about the Marpol Convention can be accessed on the IMO website by clicking here.  

Members should also note that the US Coast Guard has announced that the low sulphur measures will be strictly enforced in the North American and U.S. Caribbean Sea Emission Control Areas, with checks being made on Bunker Delivery Notes and other records during Port State and Flag State inspections, as well as fuel oil sampling and in-the-field screening for sulphur levels. Click here to access a copy of the US Coast Guard’s announcement. The US Environmental Protection Agency has  produced guidance for Owners in circumstances where compliant fuel oil is unavailable (click here). Essentially, Owners and operators are required to make best efforts to comply with the ECA rules so that, in circumstances where the standards are not met, Owners/operators have the opportunity to explain why. The guidance indicates that, in the event of non-compliance with ECA rules, Owners/operators must provide information that details their efforts to obtain compliant fuel. However, there is no clear guidance on what evidence will be sufficient so the Club recommends that, where brokers are involved, written, detailed reports from the brokers are obtained rather than simply reports of telcons and/or brief emails. Where Owners/operators are not using a broker, they should prepare such written, detailed evidence themselves.

In addition to the MARPOL ECAs, EU Directive 1999/32/EC as amended by Directive 2005/33/EC implements the Annex VI standards in EU territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and pollution control zones. This applies to owners of vessels flying flags of all countries, not just those of the EU.  Whilst the regulations on low sulphur fuel oil remain the same for most ship types, the EU Directive differs from MARPOL in respect of sulphur content  of fuel oil for passenger ships. In addition, Annex II of the EU Directive specifies the criteria for the use of emission abatement methods, including the use of liquefied natural gas, exhaust gas cleaning systems and biofuels. Click here to access a copy of the EU Directive.

Members who have not already done so, should seek urgent advice to ensure that they are ready to comply with the low sulphur limits within the approaching deadline.