Regulator acknowledges complex situation and says that enforcement will be relaxed in the first few months, while oil companies make promises on fuel supplies
India’s shipping regulator has promised that enforcement of the sulphur cap will not be overly strict in the first few months of its introduction, but state-owned oil companies have assured Indian shipowners that they have built enough capacity to satisfy demand for compliant fuel oil in Indian ports. The Shipping Corporation of India, among the largest shipowners in India, has recently decided not to install scrubbers on its ships.
The Indian Mercantile Marine Department’s deputy nautical advisor, Capt SIAK Azad, says that the regulator’s priority in the first few years will be ease of doing business. “As port state control, we understand that the situation will be complex in the first few months. Trust and common sense will be applied and we won’t go just by the letter of the law,” he said to loud applause from the audience of nearly 100 members of the Indian shipping community at a seminar on ‘IMO Sulphur Cap 2020 – Implementation and its Impact in Indian Waters’, conducted in Chennai on 5 November.
The Indian Oil Corporation’s (IOC) chief technical service manager, Anil Vasu, said the total bunker fuel requirement in India is around 1.7 million tonnes per year, largely supplied by state-owned companies. Out of this, some 0.965 mmtpa is high-sulphur furnace oil while the rest is distillate fuel. The IOC’s refinery in Koyali in the state of Gujarat alone has built enough capacity in the past year to supply 1.0 mmtpa of compliant fuel, he said.
All ports on the West Coast of India, including Mumbai, Kandla and Cochin, have already stocked this fuel, said Mr Vasu. Eastern ports would receive stocks in the coming weeks, he said. Another refinery in Haldia, near Kolkata, will soon be ready to offer compliant fuel. The IOC had a market share of 60% of ship bunkers in India.
Mr Vasu said that the IOC product would be a straight-run residual, not a blend with any distillate, and therefore friendly to shipboard engines and fuel-handling equipment. Flashpoint for use in machinery areas, main engines or auxiliary engines has to be a minimum of 60°C as per SOLAS requirements. The new IOC product’s flashpoint will be higher than required by SOLAS.
Viscosity has been a concern in new fuels. Blending brings down viscosity to 20 from 100 cSt at 50°C, which will affect fuel oil injection systems and cause leaks, Mr Vasu said. The new product will maintain viscosity between 220 and 270, which is the same as traditional HFO. Pour point will be 21°C against a maximum of 30°C.
Hindustan Petroleum Corp’s senior manager for marine trade, Amit Kute, said that the company’s new compliant fuel product is also a straight-run residual. Of the company’s two refineries, the one in Vizag can now produce 5,000 to 10,000 tonnes per month to begin with. Infrastructure will be upgraded soon to cater for demand, he said.
Meanwhile, some countries have sought to exempt coastal ships from the sulphur cap. The Mercantile Marine Department’s principal officer in Chennai, Ajith Sukumaran, wondered how domestic shipping could possibly be protected. He asked when cars in India will come under Euro 6 norms by April 2020 and how ships could refuse to come under far less strict norms on SOx. He also said that, unlike with SOLAS where the dangers are more out at sea than in ports, Marpol Annex VI does not envisage any relaxation for coastal ships since the coastal population is affected by SOx emissions. He said that member states can decide on how best to implement regulations, but the norms should be equivalent to Marpol Annex VI.
India’s deputy Director General of Shipping, Vikranth Rai, said that Indian coastal ships will not be exempted from the mandate, although the regulator will not insist on the cleaning of tanks that used to carry higher-sulphur fuel. He said nearly 80% of the 950 coastal ships in India have four-stroke engines using distillate fuels. Some 20 ships are under oil company charters, which means they can readily get compliant fuel. He said only some 15% of the ships need to switch.
Mr Rai asked Indian shipowners to be aware of the flag-state rating of India under the Paris MOU on Port State Control. India is placed lower on the grey list and therefore in danger of slipping onto the black list. Laxity in observing the sulphur cap will downgrade India’s flag state rating further, he warned.