The technical, environmental and safety issues related to the IMO 20202 cap are recognised, understood and in many cases reluctantly being addressed and planned for. The idea that you could leave everything till the ‘last minute’ and get round to dealing with it towards the end of 2019 has thankfully disappeared along with the view that there is only a mechanical solution to the introduction of the global sulphur cap. But the pressures are now coming from different areas and the need to be better prepared for 2020 will come in less than six months.

There is no doubt that insurers are reviewing policies and deciding how to play the first few months of the cap from January 2020: there is likely to be some incidences of non-compliance in the early days and this is what the legal and financial concerns have in mind. There is also the worrying thought that if Port State Control decides to detain ships in port should they be found to be using non-compliant low sulphur fuel, then a whole new set of pressures emerge. The planning to ensure you remain compliant from day one needs to start no later than June 2019 and there’s a simple reason for that.

Tank cleaning will be the most important mechanical process to complete before any decisions are made about the fuel to be used. Fuel treatment products can do that efficiently and with better cost-effective figures than any other method. There is also the upside that with a fuel treatment comes engine protection and mechanical maintenance and this is not the case with scrubbers or simply choosing one of the new fuels.  There is no guarantee at this stage that the new fuels will be ‘spot-on’ and ideal for all engines and certainly the recent cases of damaged engines from contaminated fuels leave room for concern. It is too easy to suggest that the only two solutions for 2020 are scrubbers and compliant fuel: the increasing interest in fuel treatment has been boosted by the knowledge that it can do rather more than simply deal with catfines and other contaminants; it has the ability to deal with engine corrosion and help keep marine diesel engines in peak condition.

As we approach the run-in to the 2020 sulphur cap we are coming to terms with what may have seemed a small issue in the discussion stages but is now one of serious financial concern for many ship owners and operators. There is more to the IMO cap than simply the smiles of the environmental crusaders. If the shipping industry is to be on the winning side then there’s need to be a lot more thought given to the preparations and a little less to crying foul.