With the IMO 2020 Sulphur deadline fast approaching and the uncertainty caused by the recent rail strike, operators have had to look to creative solutions to rid their vessels of any high sulphur fuel oil still on board. We have been exploring the options of de-bunkering in Vancouver over the recent weeks to see what, if any, realistic possibilities exist.
The most obvious candidate to perform this job would be local bunker suppliers. Unfortunately, we have had little luck in this respect as our initial discussions with local companies have not yielded any workable solutions. Due to the rail strike, bunker suppliers have been working hard to satisfy last minute orders and changes of schedule. To take on a relatively new operation like this on short notice could exhaust their ability to conduct their normal bunkering operations.
The technical specifications of the fuel also pose a problem. Theoretically, if a local company were to take on this operation, they would have to ensure the tanks in their barge/truck are certified to carry that specific fuel. Secondly, vessels will typically be required to supply their own pump to flow the fuel from the ship down to the bunker barge. Although this is usually not a prohibitive issue.
We have also been in discussions with a local marine services company that offers a variety of operational support services. This company has shown interest in offering the service; however, it is not something they have done in the past. Since Transport Canada has specific regulations when it comes to transporting fuel, a double hulled barge would be required for this operation. Alternatively, there have been proposals to carry tanker trucks via barge to the vessel at anchorage. This would likely increase costs and time unfortunately. A third option is the use of a lay by berth so that the trucks can drive directly to the ship. Finding a berth available for the period required may prove difficult depending on the timeline.
If the above proves to be cost/time prohibitive, plans can be made to send the vessel back to sea in order to burn HFO while awaiting berth availability. Obviously this needs to be discussed with the charterer as to how it would affect lay time calculations, NOR validity and berthing prospects.
Finally, we have heard rumblings that some operators have been in contact with Class and IMO authorities about the possibility of extending the use of HFO passed January 1st although we have not received direct confirmation about this.