IMO 2020: USCG Updates

With the implementation of the IMO 2020 fuel sulfur emissions regulations across the globe, shipping companies and logistics firms are having to adjust to potential legal issues and major financial repercussions. In the United States, the enforcement of IMO 2020 could bring harsh penalties to vessel operators caught attempting to go around legislation in order to save money or time.

What’s New With IMO 2020

In new guidance from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), ships operating in U.S. ports will be expected to carry certain documents that detail that they are in fact burning fuel with a limited sulfur content. That number is now no more than .5 percent while in international waters. The regulation went into effect on January 1 and ships must comply by filtering emissions using a certain scrubber in the smokestack or by using alternative fuel.

Coming March 1, tighter regulations will be introduced when a high-sulfur fuel carriage ban rolls out and ships will no longer be able to carry aboard any non compliant fuel in their tanks. Those who are operating on U.S. waters should be carrying effective marine pollution insurance to protect against major fines.

In its new notes, the USCG highlighted that since the United States is bound to enforce the new regulations, it will review bunker delivery notes and more thoroughly check the logs of ships to determine whether the vessel is indeed complying with the fuel sulfur limit when they operate outside of U.S. waters.

Fuel Shortages

One area where the Coast Guard showed major concern is with the potential for fuel shortages around the globe. The agency highlighted the potential for heavy fuel oil with a maximum sulfur content of .5 percent being limited at some point. With new sulfur caps, “the 2020 sulfur caps may result in an unfamiliar grade of fuel that may consist of a mixture of heavy fuel oil and distillate fuel oil,” it stated. As a result, some ships may have difficulty burning their fuel correctly.

Ships who choose to knowingly cheat will be subject to major penalties and consequences. Last year, two Greek vessel operators were fined $1.5 million each and crew members were sentenced to three years’ probation due to attempting to cover up their wrongdoing.

Avoiding Penalties

There are a number of ways in which shipping companies can avoid being hit with major penalties. Shipowners and operators should keep critical documentation on their vessels. These should include bunker delivery notes, to be retained for a minimum of three years, and bunker transfer procedures.

Also, documentation should include declaration that fuel conforms to MARPOL Annex VI and doesn’t exceed the correct maximum sulfur content and fuel changeover plan Oil Record Books.