Tuesday, 29 September 2020 | 05:24
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Ensuring Fuel Stability

Monday, 24 December 2018 | 16:00

Top level shipping executives have been exposed to more technology and operational type issues in the past year than ever before, writes Barry Parker.

At ship finance events such as Marine Money, we’ve heard about LNG fuelling for a while and about blockchain and digitalisation for the better part of a year. Now, increasingly fuel issues – specifically the coming of low sulphur fuel rules in 2020 – are dominating the podiums and panels.

Fuel issues have raised questions about optimal routings for vessels, which in turn have raised questions about the role of ports. I have raised some of these issues before, but they are worth re-stating. To be attractive to carriers, ports need to support all of their processes and, these days, the processes are becoming far more complicated.

Fuel rules for 2020 may not seem to be the problem of ports, but the requirements that ships burn low sulphur fuels will stretch and twist distribution patterns for fuels in US ports and throughout the world.

The shipping industry, through various lobbying organisations, has requested delayed implementation of fuelling rules. My hope would be that all concerned would make special efforts to accommodate deliveries of compliant fuels. These efforts might impact traffic movements in the ports as vessels shift to fuelling docks, or where barge traffic in the harbour becomes contorted.

Ports need to allow vessels to fuel expeditiously so that they can keep to their schedules. In the worst cases, ports should consider that ship’s fuel might need to be delivered by trucks that could congest traffic near the waterfront.

At the regulatory level, the US Coast Guard has certainly been understanding and has issued waivers where rules have changed and compliant fuel is not available – most notably when the US ECA rules came into effect several years ago. The port administrations, the regulators, and even more front-line folks like schedulers in shipping offices all need to be on the same page. These may be a digital page, but more likely will involve face-to-face contact to smooth things over if January 1, 2020 brings surprises.

The issues raised here may seem highly mundane, but fuelling is indeed an important component of the all-important I-word: ‘infrastructure’. As the clock ticks towards 2020, attention to this part of the mundane universe is more important than ever.
Source: Port Strategy

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