ISO Working Group Reassures Shipping Industry on Specification of 0.5% Low Sulphur Fuels

ISO Working Group Reassures Shipping Industry on Specification of 0.5% Low Sulphur Fuels

Lately, several assertions have been made that ISO 8217:2017 does not encompass future max. 0.50% sulphur marine fuel oils and these to potentially cause severe safety issues. As these claims create quite some anxiety in the industry, the ISO working group, whilst respecting the anxiety raised, would like to reassure the industry that the General requirements of ISO 8217:2017 along with the characteristics included in Table 1 and 2 of ISO 8217: 2017 cover 2020 0.50% max. sulphur fuels in the same way as they cover today’s fuels including the 0.10% max. sulphur fuels. ISO 8217 reflects on the technical requirements for machinery operations and considers the aspects of safety, environment, onboard handling (storage and cleaning) and combustion of not only today’s fuels but also of the anticipated 0.50% max. sulphur fuels of 2020, irrespective of the sulphur content of the fuel oils.

Flashpoint (in accordance with SOLAS requirements), stability and cold flow are key fuel characteristics that must be addressed for all fuel oils delivered. The limits of these characteristics as set down in the ordering specification given by the purchaser, which should reference the ISO 8217 specification, when not met, may indeed result in operational problems with possible safety implications in the severest of cases.

There is a specific concern on the fuel oil blends as modelled by CE Delft in the IMO fuel oil availability study, containing H-oil bottoms and the potential risk of obtaining unstable fuels if not properly blended. As with today’s fuels, all marine fuels delivered to ships shall be stable and meet the ISO 8217 total sediment potential requirement of 0.10 % maximum, which provides the criteria to be met for fuel oil stability.

The consequences of fuel instability such as filter clogging and centrifuges blocking are well-known and it is to be expected that fuel oil blenders and suppliers must take careful note of these consequences ensuring this fuel characteristic is not overlooked and that the fuel is delivered to the ship as a homogenous and stable product.

Also, as fuel oil blend formulations are expected to vary widely across the regions ships will, as they do today, have to consider the risk of incompatibility when using consecutive fuels from different ports and regions. Compatibility between different fuels cannot be guaranteed by the suppliers and it falls on the competency of the crew to manage this. Recognising that some degree of mixing of different fuel oils onboard the ship cannot be avoided, many ships today have already procedures in place to minimise commingling of fuel oils with bunker segregation being always the first option and are encouraged to evaluate further their segregation policy.

The ISO 8217 working group has initiated the development of a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) “Considerations for fuel suppliers and users regarding marine fuel quality in view of the implementation of maximum 0.50 % S in 2020” in response to the IMO request to consider the framework of ISO 8217 with a view to ensuring consistency between the relevant ISO standards on marine fuel oils and the implementation of the 0.50 % S max. limit. Given that these 0.50% max. sulphur fuel oils will be fully capable of being categorised within the existing ISO 8217 standard, the PAS will provide guidance as to the application of the existing ISO 8217 standard to such fuel oils. Furthermore, at this time no new characteristic is currently being considered for inclusion.

Regarding the stability of fuel oils, ISO 8217 working group has initiated a test program to investigate whether test methods currently not yet widely used for marine fuel stability testing, can provide further and consistent information on the stability and potential instability of a wide range of different fuel blend formulations (or mixtures thereof) that are anticipated to likely represent what will be available in the market from late 2019.

The ISO 8217 working group is also working closely with CIMAC and will contribute to the initiative taken by OCIMF and IPIECA to develop a guidance document to bring awareness to, and to assist crew and ship operators in the safe onboard handling of future 0.50 % S max. fuel oil blends, considering their potential impact on operational aspects.

Although concern has been raised that the 0.50% max. sulphur fuels will only be introduced later in 2019, it is clear from the fuel testing agency statistics that the share of 0.50% max. sulphur fuels in the market is already growing, all of which are meeting the requirements of ISO 8217.
Source: ISO (International Organization for Standardization)


ICS Encouraged by 2020 Global Sulphur Cap Progress

ICS Encouraged by 2020 Global Sulphur Cap Progress

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) says it is encouraged by efforts made by IMO Member States to resolve some pressing practical challenges ahead of the global implementation of the 0.5 percent sulphur in fuel cap on January 1, 2020.

Speaking after an IMO working group meeting last week, to which the industry submitted a number of constructive proposals to help ensure smooth and consistent implementation, ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe, remarked, “Although there is still much work to be done, last week’s IMO discussions were positive.  Most important is that governments have acknowledged the safety concerns raised by industry about the use of compliant fuels including possible incompatibility. We are pleased that Member States have accepted their obligations under MARPOL to ensure that fuel is suitable for use and will not pose a safety risk to the ship or the crew, and that IMO has now agreed that these critical issues should be urgently addressed by the next IMO Maritime Safety Committee in December 2017.”

ICS says it also greatly welcomes an important statement made by the International Organization for Standardization(ISO) to last week’s IMO working group.

“ISO announced that the existing industry standard for marine fuel oils, ISO 8217, already addresses the new 0.5 percent fuel blends that will be used by many ships to comply in 2020.  ISO also advised that it will be providing guidance on the application of the standard to these new blended fuels.”

“In view of recent concerns, ISO’s confirmation that no revision of the standards is needed prior to 2020 is very welcome as is ISO’s recognition that existing tools to assess compatibility are inadequate and its reassurance that ISO is actively seeking solutions before the 2020 deadline.”

Hinchliffe added, “It will be vital for shipowners and crews to have confidence that new fuels will indeed be safe and compatible before taking delivery, which they will need to start doing several months in advance of January 2020.”

ICS has also welcomed the development by IMO, as suggested by the industry, of a template for ship specific ‘Implementation Plans’, which will be adopted by the Marine Environment Protection Committee in October.

“This template will help ship operators to prepare for implementation and demonstrate good faith in doing everything possible to ensure compliance, which will be important if compliant or compatible fuel is not available in every port during the first few weeks of implementation.  Throughout last week’s meeting, the industry stressed the need for a pragmatic approach to enforcement in the event of any initial teething problems that are beyond the control of ship operators, and IMO has agreed that Port State Control authorities may take account of a ship’s Implementation Plan when verifying compliance,” Hinchliffe explained.

ICS says that solid progress was also made by Member States on draft guidelines for consistent implementation, fuel oil non-availability reporting, verification issues and amendments to the guidelines for Port State Control.

ICS is also pleased by the agreement to apply the 95 percent confidence factor of ISO 4259 to on board fuel oil samplesused for verifying compliance, while retaining the existing absolute 0.50 percent limit for the MARPOL sample which is taken during bunkering. ICS says this should help avoid potential scenarios where the sample taken during bunkering receives an acceptable test result only for the in-use fuel to be found non-compliant.

“More work is obviously needed to fully address the important issues raised by the industry, but the usual IMO spirit of co-operation has moved us all significantly closer to achieving smooth implementation in January 2020.” said Hinchliffe. “During last week’s IMO meeting, it was again made clear that there is absolutely no possibility that the legal date of implementation will be postponed.  It is therefore of the utmost importance that shipping companies and charterers proceed with their implementation planning without delay.”

Taking account of the decisions made by IMO Member States last week, including the template for ship specific Implementation Plans, ICS is now developing detailed guidance on implementation of the global sulphur cap, which it will make available to shipowners via its member national shipowner associations during the next few weeks.

ISO specification is another step forward for Methanol as marine fuel

ISO specification is another step forward for Methanol as marine fuel

IMO decision to task international standards body with new standard reflects growth of interest as Methanol as a safe, clean marine fuel

The Methanol Institute has welcomed the decision of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to invite the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to develop a standard for methyl/ethyl alcohol as a marine fuel and a standard for methyl/ethyl alcohol fuel couplings.

The decision, taken at the 99th session of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 99) is a significant step forward in the recognition of Methanol as a marine fuel that already meets IMO’s 2020 regulations and provides a pathway for very low carbon fuels in future.

“The global chemicals industry currently relies on the IMPCA specification for producers and consumers but a dedicated ISO standard will help shipowners understand the fuel in a marine fuel context,” said MI Chief Operating Officer Chris Chatterton. “We are seeing increasing interest around Methanol as a liquid fuel that is safe to handle easy to ship and store and is more widely available than other low sulphur alternatives.”

“A comment was made during MSC 99 that fuel standards should be developed before ships begin using such low-flashpoint fuels so that safety concerns are adequately addressed before, not after, larger numbers of ships start using them,” says IBIA’s IMO Representative Unni Einemo. “However, ISO has traditionally developed fuel standards only after user experience to be able to assess which parameters need to be specified, and also what relevant limits should be.”

There are currently eight ships trading internationally operating on Methanol as fuel – the ropax Stena Germanica and seven tankers operated by Waterfront Shipping with at least four more expected to enter into service in 2019. Several recent research projects have independently confirmed Methanol’s suitability as a suitable replacement for conventional marine fuels in coastal, inland and shortsea sectors.

ISO will work to develop the standards and provide them as soon as possible, the first time it has considered these fuel types.


The decision to invite ISO to develop standards for methyl/ethyl alcohol fuel for ships was taken when MSC 99 discussed the report from the fourth session of the Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers (CCC). CCC has been tasked with drafting technical provisions for using methyl/ethyl alcohol as a ship fuel under an ongoing item on its agenda regarding amendments to the International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code).