India may not comply with IMO 2020 sulphur cap in domestic fleet

Record keeping will be crucial for shipowners to demonstrate compliance or explain non-compliance with the IMO 2020 sulphur cap.

With the 0.5% sulphur cap for marine fuel now less than five months from coming into force how the regulation will be enforced, and what owners should do if they find themselves unable to comply for any reason are becoming serious issues.

At the MEPC 74 meeting in May the IMO made an attempt to ensure consistent implementation around the world, however, uncertainties remain as to how the regulation will be enforced in the ground in different countries.

It’s still uncertain given it’s left to the discretion of each authority, Port State Control and flag state to enforce what they see fit and for a lot of the situations the guidance is for facts of the particular case to be taken into consideration and for the relevant authority to decide if they should enforce or not.

However, while the exact terms of enforcement in different locations remain unclear what will be important is for owners and their vessels to be honest in cases of non-compliance and have good quality records to back up their case.

The thing is in any scenario where compliance can’t be achieved, whether there is no compliant fuel available for a ship not fitted with scrubbers, or that scrubbers breakdown, in any of those scenarios the key thing is to report open, honestly and quickly to the relevant authorities.

Documentary trails are going to be really important to show that vessels and owners have acted reasonably and even beyond reasonably they have done everything to try to comply. One of the things the IMO confirmed was the test is really going to be whether everything has been tried, and the standard is going to be quite high – it’s not just going to be a reasonable endeavour standard.

Record keeping is likely to be the first part of any inspection covering documents such as the ship implementation plan and bunker delivery notes..