Fuel oil non-availability reports (FONAR) are not a ‘free pass’ to use or carry non-compliant high-sulphur fuel from 2020, according to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).
The warning to shipowners follows the decision by IMO’s Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) sub-committee that FONARs can be used even when compliant fuel is available if shipowners can show safety or operational concerns.
The decision means that port state control will consider whether a ship can safely handle an alternative compliant fuel – such as a 0.1% sulphur gas oil instead of a 0.5% low-sulphur fuel blend – where the first choice is not available. The decision will also take account of the need for tank cleaning to avoid compatibility issues. If concerns are found, a FONAR could be issued.
ICS deputy secretary general Simon Bennett said: “FONARs remain a tool of last resort and are not something that a ship will be able to use routinely. The circumstances in which a FONAR can be used are very limited and conditions attached to their use will be strict.
If a FONAR is issued, vessels should bunker the smallest possible amount of non-compliant fuel, ICS warned. Authorities at the next port of call may insist that such fuel is de-bunkered if compliant fuel is available there.
Ship operators must also provide evidence of safety and operational limitations during subsequent inspections after receiving a FONAR. Port state control will consider all relevant circumstances and evidence when deciding whether to detain a ship. These include the number of FONARs a ship has submitted in the past year, how many the operator has submitted for other ships and whether other ships on similar voyages have submitted reports.
The decision on the extended use of FONARs is part of draft guidelines on consistent implementation of the 0.5% sulphur limit, which were agreed by PPR6 last month. The IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee will decide whether to adopt them in its next meeting in May.