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BUNKER INDEX :: Price Index, News and Directory Information for the Marine Fuel Industry
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IBIA calls for bunker sample verification guidelines before 2020

Without guidelines for in-use samples, ships could be penalised for a test result showing 'marginal exceedance of the sulphur limit', IBIA warns.

Image credit: IBIA

Updated on 19 Jul 2018 15:14 GMT

The International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) has called for new IMO guidelines covering the verification of fuel samples to be issued prior to 2020 in order to avoid port state control (PSC) officers from interpreting test results based on current Marpol Annex VI regulations covered in appendix VI.

As it stands now, the sulphur verification of samples taken from a vessel's fuel systems, also referred to as 'in-use samples', are not covered in appendix VI. The regulation only addresses the sulphur verification of the fuel delivered, known as the Marpol sample.

And during last week's IMO intersessional working group (ISWG) meeting of the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR), there was said to be a majority in favour of amending appendix VI to also include the verification of in-use samples, and to simplify appendix VI so that verification of compliance can be achieved by testing at just one laboratory. The current method in appendix VI could require further testing by a second laboratory.

However, any regulatory amendment would only take effect around mid-2021 - roughly a year and a half after the global 0.5 percent limit on fuel sulphur content becomes effective in January 2020. Therefore, IBIA has proposed that IMO guidelines are issued before the new sulphur rules are implemented, asking relevant authorities to take the 95 percent confidence principle into account when examining test results for in-use samples.

At the ISWG meeting, two main options are said to have emerged as possible solutions to the dilemma of how to verify both in-use and Marpol samples. One possibility is to treat both in-use and Marpol samples in the same way so that the test result from one laboratory is considered to be compliant as long as it does not exceed the limit and the 95 percent confidence limit of the test method. The second solution is to apply the 95 percent confidence limit to the in-use sample, but not to the Marpol sample - which would be in line with how ISO 4259 treats the supplier's retained sample in the event of a dispute.

Discussing the consequences of IMO guidelines covering in-use samples not being introduced prior to 2020, IBIA's IMO Representative, Unni Einemo, said: "If we fail to do this, we risk that port state control officers will apply appendix VI as it stands now for interpretation of test results for in-use samples."

"The current verification procedure in appendix VI does not fully recognise the limitations of the test method with regards to [the] 95% confidence limit and as such we risk ships being penalised for a test result indicating marginal exceedance of the sulphur limit that could, if the test had been done on the same sample in a different laboratory, have returned a compliant test result," Einemo added.

ISO 8754 test method put forward for approval

Also at last week's meeting, ISWG concluded that only one reference test method, namely ISO 8754, should be used in fuel oil testing and verification procedures when checking compliance with sulphur limits - which was in line with IBIA's proposal at the PPR5 meeting earlier this year.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) will now be tasked with deciding whether to proceed with the draft amendments under Marpol Annex VI, which, if approved, would become effective in mid-2021.

IBIA has proposed that the amendments are covered in IMO guidelines to be approved by the MEPC before 2020 to make sure that the ISO 8754 testing and reporting protocol is applied as quickly as possible.

Related Links:

IMO working group develops plan to help ships prepare for 2020
IBIA posts advice following spate of fuel quality issues
IBIA presents best practice guidance for suppliers
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