News 06 May, 2010

United Kingdom - Enforcement of EU Marine Fuel Sulphur Directive

Members will be aware that Article 4b of European Union (EU) Directive 2005/33/EC concerning the “Maximum sulphur content of marine fuels used by inland waterway vessels and ships at berth in Community ports” entered into force on 1 January 2010.

Article 4b states that inland waterway vessels and ships at berth in EU Member States must not use marine fuels with a sulphur content exceeding 0.1% by mass. However, it allows ships sufficient time to complete the necessary fuel changeover operations as soon as possible after berthing and as late as possible prior to departure from the berth. Ships must also record the time of such fuel changeover operations. The changeover to low sulphur fuel is not required if, according to published timetables, the ship will remain at the berth for less than two hours, or if all engines are to be closed down and shore power is to be used. Inland waterway vessels which fulfil the requirements of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended, do not need to comply with Article 4b while on passage.

Due to concerns regarding the burning of low sulphur fuels in ships that were not designed for such purpose or which have not undergone the necessary technical changes, the European Commission published Commission Recommendation of 21 December 2009 on the “Safe implementation of the use of low sulphur fuel by ships at berth in Community ports”. The main safety risk relates to the use of low sulphur fuels in boilers that have not been assessed and certified for use with the required fuel type. The Recommendation advises Member States to ask non-compliant ships for detailed evidence as to the steps being taking to achieve compliance. This should include a contract with a manufacturer and a retrofit plan approved by the ship’s classification society or by the appropriate organisation when flying the flag of an EU Member State. The Recommendation further states that the process for completing the necessary modifications should not take more than eight months.

The United Kingdom (UK) recently published The Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Air Pollution from Ships) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 which made the requirements of Article 4b law in the UK as from 20 April 2010. Further guidance on the new legislation can be found in the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) Marine Guidance Note (MGN) 400 (M+F). The new requirements apply to all ships operating in UK waters.  The UK has chosen not to allow an eight month period for ships to comply with Article 4b and ships are not excused if they have not carried out the necessary modifications to equipment or boilers to consume low sulphur fuel.  However, MGN 400 states that “exemptions may be granted on a case by case basis on application to the MCA” or “where it is necessary for the purpose of securing the safety of a ship”.

According to MGN 400:
• Ships at berth in UK ports and inland waterway vessels shall not use fuel which has a sulphur content exceeding 0.1% by mass.
• Ships at berth means “ships which are securely moored or anchored in a UK port while it is loading, unloading or hotelling, including time spent when not engaged in cargo operations”. Vessels anchored within the port limits of a UK port are also required to comply with these provisions.
• “Hotelling” is considered to be when “a ship is securely moored or anchored in a port and is not loading or unloading cargo, but is providing crew and any passengers with accommodation and associated services”.
• Ships anchored outside port limits but within the North Sea Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) shall remain compliant with the sulphur content limit for fuel oil used on board in accordance with the North Sea SECA.
• Ships are allowed sufficient time to complete fuel changeover operations after berthing, and as late as possible prior to departure. Ship alongside for less than 2 hours are not required to change over to low sulphur fuel. MGN 400 states that one hour may be considered sufficient time to complete fuel changeover operations, depending on the type of ship and systems involved.
• Sufficient time for changeover operations is not considered to include time waiting for suitable low sulphur fuel to be procured or delivered. A ship is expected to have such fuel on board on berthing. However, if it has not been possible, despite best endeavours, for a ship arriving from a port outside the EU, to have suitable fuel supplied beforehand, prior arrangements must be made to ensure that low sulphur fuel is delivered to the ship upon arrival. In such cases documentation must be available on board to demonstrate that every effort was made to obtain compliant fuel before the vessel departed for the UK.
• Guidance is provided on the information that must be entered in ships’ logbooks on arrival and prior to sailing; for all changeover operations the date and time of commencement and completion of the operation are required, together with the volume of fuel not exceeding 0.1% sulphur in each tank.

Although not stated in MGN 400, subject to certain conditions the foregoing requirements do not necessarily apply to vessels granted permission by the UK authorities to use emission abatement technologies for trial purposes.

Non compliance with the requirements of the new legislation may result in a vessel being detained by a Port State Control inspector or Harbour Master and/or the imposition of a fine not exceeding £5000 per offence. However, serious breaches of the regulations may lead to an unlimited fine.

The guidance contained in this article is a brief overview of the new legislative requirements that entered into force on 20 April 2010 regarding ships either anchored or at berth in UK ports. Members are advised to check the detailed requirements to ensure that their ships comply. In the event of any queries, please contact the Loss Prevention department in the usual manner.