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2020 Sulphur Regulations and the Port of Vancouver

With the IMO Sulphur January 1, 2020 deadline approaching many operators are keeping a close eye on their vessel’s operations in Vancouver. We have been getting a lot of inquiries regarding what local suppliers are doing to prepare as operators plan for this eventuality. This post is meant as a follow up to our initial article, which can be found here, on what to expect going forward and what has been observed so far in the Port of Vancouver. According to the International Maritime Organization, the “limit for sulphur in fuel oil used on board ships operating outside designated emission control areas will be reduced” which will “reduce the amount of sulphur oxides emanating from ships.” In preparation of the impending regulations, local bunker suppliers are already looking ahead at how to better serve the industry.

Over the last couple of months an uptake in MGO deliveries and a reduction in the quantity of HFO supplied has been observed. This has been especially true since the end of the cruise ship season. Local bunker suppliers have noted this as well stating those vessels without retrofitted systems are increasing their intake. Alternatively, vessels that have invested in Scrubber systems designed to remove harmful chemicals and sulphur from the fuel, have continued to receive HFO. After the HFO is processed through the scrubbers it is then compliant with the 0.5% regulations for 2020. Looking ahead, local suppliers have indicated that the availability of HFO outside of cruise ship season could be limited in the Port of Vancouver. Cruise ships tend to be more active in utilizing scrubber systems so suppliers have advised there will likely be more availability during the season.

We recently approached Transport Canada about their regulations in regards to open and closed loop scrubber systems. Transport Canada requires certain details before approving the use of these systems in local waters under their jurisdiction. Some information they require includes whether or not a wash water treatment plan is used or if a viable holding tank is available on board. The appropriate class/flag approval and IAPP certificate must be sent to them as well. The authorities review all of this information and grant permission on a case by case basis. Vessels using these systems through the Strait of Juan De Fuca will also require permission from the USA authorities. Transport Canada has not yet revealed their specific procedures about how vessels are to declare the use of these systems, however, that will likely come in time. Finally, while it seems that the authorities will be permitting the use of scrubber systems it is possible that further restrictions could come into place in the future.

Existing barges that are currently used for bunkering purposes are in the process of being retrofitted. Suppliers are able to convert existing HFO tanks to handle more MGO and other alternatives which means greater quantities of these 2 fuels can be held at a given time. On the flip side, their shore-side counterparts are also transitioning their operations to ensure the guidelines and procedures are in place to maintain specs and blending requirements. In some cases, vessels  are stemming a relatively new blend of fuel, called Very-low sulphur fuel oil, suggesting that this will likely be a top contender as a replacement fuel oil going forward.