Port state MOUs plan ‘letter of warning’ sulphur cap campaign

Regional MOUs plan a ‘letter of warning’ campaign over sulphur cap compliance. Credit: Joachim Affeldt
Regional MOUs plan a ‘letter of warning’ campaign over sulphur cap compliance. Credit: Joachim Affeldt

Regional port state control organisations are planning a “letter of warning” information campaign aimed at shipowners to underline that compliance with the sulphur cap must take place from 1 January 2020, Hideo Kubota, secretary of the Tokyo MOU, has told IHS Markit.

“This will be a signal to the industry that port state control will take enforcement of the new sulphur limits seriously from day one,” Kubota said.

The Paris MOU has already agreed to launch the campaign from 1 January 2019, while the Tokyo MOU secretariat will propose joining this campaign at a meeting of its governing committee in November.

International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules will limit sulphur pollution from vessels to 0.5% of mass from the start of 2020, down from the current level of 3.5%.

Vessels that do not comply with the regulation face detentions and increased inspections.

While port state control procedures for verifying vessel compliance are still being worked out at the IMO, Kubota said that, in principle, bunker delivery notes and oil record books should be examined.

“Considering the impact to the marine environment, non-compliance with the sulphur cap should be serious,” Kubota said, adding that those that comply with the regulation will be put at a commercial disadvantage by those that do not.

Regional memorandum of understanding (MOU) organisations are agreements between countries that harmonise how ports monitor vessels for compliance with international regulations and sanction those found to be substandard.

MOUs give vessels a ship risk profile based on their historical performance that determines how frequently the ship is inspected and how detailed the inspection will be.

“Currently, the Tokyo MOU shares information by hyperlink with the Paris MOU, Indian Ocean MOU, Vina del Mar Agreement, and Black Sea MOU. The hyperlink with the Caribbean MOU is in the process of development,” Kubota said.

By enabling the sharing of information about ships, owners, and operators, MOUs are designed to prevent ‘port shopping’, whereby vessels deliberately call in at ports with weak regulations, and to eliminate the need for repeated ship inspections. Of the nine regional MOUs operating globally, only the Paris MOU is legally binding.