Industry launches comprehensive guide on low-sulphur fuel management

Shipping emissions. Credit: Joachim Affeldt

With the deadline for the implementation of low-sulphur fuel less than six months away, supply chain stakeholders are still navigating their way through the compliance and risk management complexities of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Annex VI.

To address many of these issues, various industry bodies have gathered and produced the Joint Industry Guidance on the supply and use of 0.50% sulphur marine fuel, which, despite its rather clunky title, offers practical, easy-to-understand guidelines for each link in the supply chain.

The first section of the guide provides an understanding of the characteristics and properties of the fuel supplied, as well as onboard fuel management.

This includes technical aspects, such as cold-flow properties, stability, viscosity, acid number, flash point, ignition quality, and catalyst fines; compatibility issues; and observing good practice when commingling fuels. There is a short summary at the end of the section on the test methods available to evaluate fuel quality.

Section 2 focuses on fuel suppliers and how they should apply quality management systems – such as ISO 9001 – through using the appropriate blending methods and preventing extraneous material from entering the fuel.

It also explains how and why suppliers and purchasers need to provide adequate information to the ship about the fuel supplied, so that ship operators can identify and manage potential safety and operational issues associated with certain fuel properties and characteristics.

A ship’s crew also needs to maintain appropriate records in accordance with both MARPOL and flag state requirements.

Fuel suppliers need to ensure that the fuel will not inhibit the operation of a vessel. There is also information on fuel suppliers’ responsibility in terms of Clause 5 of ISO 8217:2017 and Regulation 18.3 of MARPOL Annex VI.

The next section of the guide is aimed at ship operators and how they can identify potential fuel-related safety and operational issues, together with details of the measures they can take to prevent and mitigate these risks. These include guidelines on assessing the compatibility of fuels and information on adequately preparing the ship’s equipment and systems to accommodate the expected range of fuels. Switching between fuel parcels, with specific information relevant to ships using either diesel engines or boilers, is also discussed.

Finally, this section provides guidance on the onboard management of unacceptable fuels, off-specification fuels, and non-compliant fuels (fuels exceeding the 0.50% sulphur limit). The document closes with three appendices, comprising a glossary of frequently used terms (Appendix 1); details on the significance of off-specification test results (Appendix 2); and sources of guidance (Appendix 3).

Issues related to compliance with flag state, port state, or IMO guidelines, or alternative means of compliance (scrubbers), and alternative fuels, such as liquefied natural gas, hydrogen, or methanol, are not covered in the guide.

An e-learning course based on the guide will be launched in October 2019.