The possibility for shipowners to be issued with a Fuel Oil Non Availability Report (FONAR) should not be regarded as a ‘free pass’ either to use or carry non-complaint fuel, according to the The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).
Last week, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) made a decision in principle that safety or operational concerns about the quality of low sulphur fuels may, in exceptional circumstances, be a valid reason for shipowners to receive FONAR when the global sulphur cap, requiring fuels to have a sulphur content of 0.5% or less, comes into full effect on January 1, 2020.
“FONARs remain a tool of last resort and are not something that a ship will be able to use routinely,” Simon Bennett, ICS Deputy Secretary General, said.
“The circumstances in which a FONAR can be used are very limited and conditions attached to their use will be strict. Shipowners still need to remain focused on doing everything possible to ensure full compliance in 2020.”
ICS added it is possible that in some ports worldwide shipowners may initially encounter quality or compatibility problems with the new 0.5% blended fuels which they may have intended to use. But the organization emphasized that the higher cost of alternative compliant fuels, including 0.1% distillates if these are the only other fuels available, will not be considered as a valid basis for claiming non-availability of safe and compliant fuel.
ICS also warns that only the minimum possible quantity of non-compliant fuel should be bunkered if a FONAR is issued, as it is likely that any remaining non-compliant fuel will be required by PSC to be debunkered at the next port of call, and cannot be used on subsequent voyages.
“Above all else, the onus will be on the ship operator to provide documentary evidence that every reasonable step has been taken to ensure compliant bunkers will be available in the planned bunkering port,” Bennett concluded.