Call for All States to Enforce Sulfur Cap

file photo courtesy of Diamantino Rosa
file photo courtesy of Diamantino Rosa

Published Sep 18, 2019 8:24 PM by The Maritime Executive

The World Shipping Council (WSC), BIMCO, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the International Parcel Tankers Association (IPTA) has called on IMO member states to fully implement the new global marine fuel sulfur cap mandated from January 1, 2020.

The industry bodies say that their members have worked diligently to be ready to comply. However, the cost of compliance is high, so it is critical that the rule is consistently applied and enforced.

“Recent reports suggesting that some nations might not fully implement the new rules are disturbing,” said John Butler, President & CEO of the World Shipping Council. “We urge any country considering deviation to abandon those ideas and put plans in place to fulfill their enforcement responsibilities as of January 1, 2020, and we encourage the IMO to remind member states of their commitments.”

Butler concluded: “There is a lot at stake for the IMO community here. This regulation affects vessel operations 24/7/365 everywhere on the planet, and it will be expensive. This will be an important test case for IMO member states to demonstrate that they will exercise the political will to implement and enforce the fuel sulfur limits they have adopted.” 

The Trident Alliance, a coalition of shipping owners and operators who share a common interest in robust enforcement of the new regulations, has also voiced concern about the issue. “There have been reports or indications that some States, which have ratified MARPOL Annex VI,  may not fully enforce the sulfur regulations on ships trading between ports in waters under their jurisdiction. Such a decision would bear severe legal implications,” says the Alliance. 

“A State that is party to MARPOL Annex VI can be held liable in accordance with international law (i.e. UNCLOS, Vienna Convention on the law of treaties and the ILC Articles on State Responsibility) if it does not enforce the 0.50 percent sulfur limit within its waters. This can lead to the other participating States to Annex VI moving to expel the violating State from Annex VI, or to require the violating State to stop its action or omission and adhere to its commitment.”

The Trident Alliance stresses that the lack or failure of enforcement does not mean ships do not have to comply. If a ship exceeds the sulfur limits in such areas it can still be held liable for having been in breach of the limit by another State at a later time. Specifically:

• The ship’s flag State can sanction such violations, irrespective of where or when they occur;

• Use of non-compliant fuel in an area where the 2020 sulfur limit is not enforced, does not amount to valid grounds for later invoking a Fuel Oil Non-Availability Report (FONAR); and

• Any non-compliance on the high seas, e.g. when sailing between two States that do not fully enforce the regulations, can be penalized by all other port States.

The Alliance also states that it is important for shipowners and operators to recognize that compliance is not only a matter between them and the authorities. The requirement for full compliance with all applicable regulation is frequently a condition commercial contracts, bank covenants and insurance policies.