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Greek shipowners welcome ‘safety net’ in fuel availability reports

Greek shipowners’ leader Theodore Veniamis has welcomed last week’s significant decision to recognise legitimate cases of compliant fuel unavailability or genuine safety worries in fuel oil non-availability reports after January 1 as ‘the minimum the IMO can do’. Those impugning shipowners’ motives for seeking such a safety net are ‘misguided and simply ignorant’ of industry realities, he said

UGS president Theodore Veniamis said criticism of the IMO committee recommendation was ‘ignorant’ of operational realities

GREEK shipowners, who have championed greater appreciation of safety and operational concerns in implementing next year’s switch to low-sulphur fuels, have welcomed the inclusion of safety-related elements in new ‘fuel oil non-availability reports’.

But the Union of Greek Shipowners said that the agreement in last week’s International Maritime Organisation Pollution Prevention and Response meeting  (PPR6) was “the absolute minimum that the IMO can do” in view of the safety and availability implications that much of the industry fears may arise owing to next year’s changes.

Union president Theodore Veniamis called on governments at the upcoming meeting of the Marine Environment Protection Committee to endorse the decision of their technical experts.

Mr Veniamis used typically forthright language to hit back at sniping about the measure, which if ratified will make provisions for shipowners to escape sanctions for burning higher-sulphur fuel in cases where genuine non-availability or legitimate cause for safety concerns can be demonstrated.

Suggestions that the fuel oil non-availability reports, known as Fonars, could be misused by shipowners were “completely misguided and simply ignorant of the shipping industry realities,” he said.

“Ship operators have every incentive to bunker compliant fuel and every disincentive to bunkering non-complaint fuel,” said Mr Veniamis.

This was primarily due to the safety implications but also due to commercial ones, in view of “the consequential operational and economic burden” that owners and operators would have to shoulder because of the tank cleaning necessitated if non-compliant fuel was bunkered.

The Greek owners’ leader also said calls for owners to be forced to buy fuel with 0.1% sulphur content whenever 0.5% is unavailable were “unacceptable”.

That would put the majority of shipping companies globally under an unwarranted obligation and would constitute unfair competition, he said.

“The shipping industry should not be burdened with the inaction of oil companies and refiners to fulfil their obligation to provide the industry with the necessary quality and quantity of safe 2020-compliant marine fuels,” Mr Veniamis said.

The UGS has taken the view that the ultimate aim should be that the shipping industry in its totality uses safe and suitable low-sulphur marine fuels.

However, this has opened a rift with those owners who have opted to install scrubbers, including a number of prominent Greek owners.

Industry safety concerns have mainly revolved around fears that there will be a higher risk of contamination and consequent machinery breakdowns, immobilisations and casualties from new low-sulphur blends.

According to Mr Veniamis, the new elements in Fonars at least provide “a safety net for the safety of life at sea and the protection of the environment”.


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