Fuel oil availability and quality – Regulation 18

In general this regulation is not directed to ships, rather to fuel oil suppliers and their control by the appropriate authorities together with other regulatory aspects. In particular the requirements of regulations 18.1, 18.2, 18.4, 18.5, 18.8.2, 18.9 and 18.10, together with aspects of regulations 18.8.1, should be seen as supportive of regulation 14 in respect of those aspects which are outside the control of the ship owner.

Regulations 18.6 and 18.8.1 have specific ship (for those that are required to have IAPP Certificates) related actions concerning the retention onboard of the bunker delivery notes for a period of not less than 3 years following delivery, subject to any relaxation afforded by application of regulation 18.11, and the retention, under the ship’s control (therefore not necessarily onboard although they should be readily accessible if so required by the relevant authorities), of the representative fuel oil samples until the subject fuel oil is substantially consumed but for not less than 12 months from the date of delivery. These requirements apply irrespective of whether or not compliance with regulation 14 - SOx and particulate matter emission control - is complied with by means of bunkering fuel oils which do not exceed the stated limits.

The guidelines for the sampling of fuel oil for determination of compliance with MARPOL Annex VI have been updated to take into account the revised Annex VI, resolution MEPC.182(59). Paragraphs 8 and 9 of those guidelines refer to specific actions to be taken by the ship. It should be noted that local legislation covering the control of fuel oil suppliers in respect of Annex VI related issues may not directly follow all aspects as given in these guidelines, such as fuel oil sampling location, since they are only recommendatory to the regulating authority. In the case of sampling location, the relevant authority may have accepted other equivalent arrangements and which are duly controlled as required.

It is however necessary that oversight by the ship is applied both to the bunker delivery note and the representative fuel oil sample. In accordance with the revised guidelines for port State control under the revised MARPOL Annex VI, resolution MEPC.181(59), paragraphs and 2.1.5 where the bunker delivery note does not contain the information as given in appendix V of revised Annex VI or the representative sample has not been drawn, labelled or sealed in accordance with the relevant guidelines that is to be duly documented and advised to the ship’s flag State Administration with copies to the bunkering port authorities and the bunker supplier with a further copy retained onboard together with any relevant commercial documentation.

In this regard it must be accepted that there will be bunkering ports located in countries which are not Parties to Annex VI and therefore, apart from commercial considerations, there is no direct requirement for them to comply with the various requirements of regulation 18. Hence it is usual for ship owners, when ordering bunkers, to at least insert clauses to the effect that the fuel oil supply process is to be in accordance with the requirements of Annex VI and with specified maximum sulphur content appropriate to the particular intended future area of operation.

The other aspect of regulation 18 which may have an effect on ship owners is the fuel oil availability clause, regulation 18.2 which provides for the situation where there is a local non-availability of the required fuel oil – essentially fuel oil which does not meet the required maximum sulphur limit as given in regulation 14. As given, the ship owner must have made his best efforts to attempt to obtain the required fuel oil and that this should be taken into account by Parties when considering what action to take, or not to take, in the case of a ship using non-compliant fuel oil.

Regulations 18.9 together with regulations 18.1, 18.3, 18.4 and 18.5 in the first instance refer to the local control of fuel oil suppliers while regulations 18.7, 18.8.2 – and hence appendix VI - and 18.10 refer to the application of port State controls.