Panama Canal – Modification to Fuel Requirements in Canal Waters

28th April 2017

ECM Maritime Services, LLC, have advised the Club about a new Advisory to Shipping, A-15-2017 dated 19 April 2017, which has been issued by the Panama Canal Authority in response to a variety of queries received about Section 29.a. Manoeuvring Fuel in OP Notice to Shipping N-1-2017 - Vessel Requirements.

Under Section 29.a. of N-1-2017, vessels operating on heavy fuel oil must change to light fuel prior to entry into waters which are under the responsibility of the Panama Canal Authority. The sulphur content in the light fuel must not exceed the parameters determined by MARPOL, Annex VI - Regulation 14. The outer boundaries of Canal waters are those of the Pacific and Atlantic anchorage areas, which are designated in nautical charts DMA No.21603 and DMA No.26068 respectively.

Initially, further clarification and definitions on manoeuvring fuel requirements were provided within the Panama Canal Authority, Advisory to Shipping No. A-04-2017 dated 1 February 2017, as follows;

  • Heavy and Light Fuel are residual marine fuels as classified by ISO 8216-1:2010, with specifications as detailed in ISO 8217:2010.
  • Hybrid Fuel is a blended product with specifications that resemble some heavy fuel oils (HFO), and designed to minimise the various operational problems presented by the change-over process from heavy fuel oil to light fuel oil, whilst having good calorific values and complying with statutory environmental requirements. After recent developments, hybrid fuels are not categorised within the ISO 8217 standard.
  • The light fuel to be utilised must have a minimum flash point of 60°C regardless of classification and must follow the sulphur content cap, which is currently set at 3.5% m/m by weight in accordance with MARPOL Annex VI regulation 14.1.2. (Panama Canal waters are not emission control areas).
  • Vessels equipped with an operational and approved exhaust gas cleaning system (scrubber) and vessels operating on low-sulphur hybrid fuels are not required to switch to light fuel (distillate marine fuel).

The complementary publication from the Panama Canal Authority, Advisory to Shipping No. A-15-2017 dated 19 April 2017, announced modifications to the fuel requirements in Panama Canal waters which are applicable to all vessels as follows;

  • The use of heavy (residual) fuel is permitted to operate their auxiliary engines, boilers and other ancillary equipment during their stays at the Pacific or Atlantic Anchorages or whilst docked at the berths of the Pacific or Atlantic port terminals prior to Canal transit. However, a changeover from heavy (residual) to light (distillate) fuel used to operate their propulsion engines will be required in advance of entering the Canal waters.
  • When burning heavy (residual) fuel in their auxiliary engines, boilers and other ancillary equipment whilst at the anchorages or berths, there must be a changeover to light (distillate) fuel operation no less than two hours prior to the scheduled pilot time for Canal transit. A vessel will be considered ready for Canal transit only when the switch to light fuel has been completed and is operating on distillate fuel.
  • Provided that the sole intention of the vessel is to call at either a Pacific or Atlantic port terminal without necessitating Canal transit, she may be allowed to proceed to and from the port terminal on heavy fuel, including the main propulsion engines. Subsequently, these vessels will not be subject to the fuel changeover requirement stated in OP Notice to Shipping N-1-2017.
  • The fuel changeover must be recorded in the engine room logbook and/or fuel oil changeover logbook when it is intended to transit the Canal. These logbook entries must specify the date and time of commencement and ending of the changeover from heavy (residual) fuel to light (distillate) fuel, as well as the sulphur content of the fuels.

Members requiring further guidance should contact the Loss Prevention department

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