With 1 January 2020 fast approaching, and with the uncertainty on compliant fuel oil availability worldwide, having a plan for dealing with a scenario of fuel oil non-availability can prove valuable. This statutory news contains some key aspects on what to consider, including access to a FONAR template.
Relevant for ship owners and managers as well as flag states.
Regulation 18.2 of MARPOL Annex VI describes what to do in case a ship is not able to get the required fuel as per MARPOL. This includes:
- Notify your flag state and the port authority at the next port of call
- Provide a description of actions taken to attempt to achieve compliance
- Provide evidence that you attempted to purchase compliant fuel oil in accordance with the ship’s voyage plan and, if it was not made available where planned, that attempts were made to locate alternative sources for such fuel oil and that despite best efforts to obtain compliant fuel oil, no such fuel oil was made available for purchase
The FONAR (Fuel Oil Non-Availability Report) form was later developed by the IMO and is meant to capture the information above. The ship should not be required to deviate from its intended voyage or to delay unduly the voyage in order to achieve compliance.
It’s important to note, however, that filing a FONAR is not a carte blanche for using non-compliant fuel nor an exemption from using compliant fuel. It is still the port authorities in the port of destination, taking into consideration the FONAR and the evidence submitted, which will scrutinize the information provided and make the final decision, eventually deciding if any penalty is to be imposed.
Even if a FONAR is accepted, the disadvantages and hassle following a FONAR situation may in many cases outweigh possible benefits from using cheaper non-compliant fuel. For instance, with the carriage ban for fuel exceeding 0.50% sulphur taking effect on 1 March 2020, the handling of any excess non-compliant fuel after a FONAR situation will be subject to the discretion of the PSC in cooperation with the flag and ship (MEPC.1/Circ.881). In worst case, this could mean de-bunkering the ship, followed by tank cleaning, which can prove very costly and time-consuming.
The evidence provided with the FONAR that compliant fuel was not available will be essential. This will be documentation, statements and correspondence showing that all possibilities have been considered to obtain compliant fuel, including taking into account the voyage plan and all relevant fuel oil suppliers at hand. In case non-compliant fuel has been bunkered due to fuel oil quality concerns and with respect to potential safety and operational problems, such concerns need to be thoroughly documented, possibly supported by equipment or the engine manufacturer’s recommendations.
As soon as it becomes evident that compliant fuel will not be available for the next voyage, it is important to notify the next port of call and the flag administration directly (and not to class) without any delay about the situation and circumstances by submitting a FONAR. The FONAR shall provide the necessary evidence and justification for bunkering non-compliant fuel.
- Global Sulphur Cap 2020 web page
- FONAR template
- MEPC.1/Circ.881– Guidance for port state control on contingency measures for addressing non-compliant fuel
- MEPC.320(74) – Guidance for consistent implementation of the 0.50% sulphur limit under MARPOL ANNEX VI