In order to help assess compliance with MARPOL Annex VI fuel oil sulphur content requirements for vessels operating within the North American and US Caribbean Sea Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs), the United States Coast Guard (USCG) is introducing a voluntary fuel oil sampling programme as from 29 February 2016.
Initially the USCG will only request samples at certain ports, although they have not advised which ports these will be. In time the programme will be rolled out to other ports. The USCG has also stated that domestic vessels will not be targeted until a late date, suggesting that the initial focus will be on foreign flagged vessels.
Samples of the fuel oil in use may be requested by USCG Port State Control Officers (PSCOs) during routine Port State Control inspections. It should be noted that the provision of a sample is voluntary, and in the event of fuel oil being found to be non-compliant no penalty will be imposed. Samples from participating vessels will be drawn by the crew at an appropriate location on the fuel oil system, overseen by the PSCO who may be assisted by a representative of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The USCG may still order a vessel to provide a fuel oil sample if they have reasons to suspect a contravention of the regulations. If the fuel oil is found to be non-compliant in such cases, the vessel may be detained and fined thereafter.
Full details of the new programme can be found in the USCG’s Marine Safety Information Bulletin – Voluntary Vessel Fuel Oil Sampling Program. Members requiring further guidance should contact the Loss Prevention department.