Monday, December 2, 2019

Maritime Professionals Fear Criminalisation Following Incoming Sulphur Cap

Union Worries Over Potential Problems
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – There can surely be nobody associated with the ocean shipping sector who remains unaware of the incoming mandatory sulphur cap which will come into force in less than a month at the start of the New Year. Now however a genuine concern as arisen prompted by members of the maritime professionals' union, Nautilus International which may leave crew member open to prosecution.

The Union has been told by members that many seafarers are increasingly alarmed by the prospect of being scapegoated for problems through no fault of their own, linked to the 0.5% cap on the Sulphur content of fuel. Penalties for non-compliance with the new 0.5% limit will include big fines or lengthy jail sentences in some countries, as well as ship detentions. Within designated emission control areas (ECAs), the limit will remain at 0.10%.

Just over a year ago, in the first case of its kind, France fined the master of the P&O Cruises vessel Azura €100,000 for using fuel that was 0.18% over the Sulphur content limit, setting a precedent for criminalising masters for the quality of fuel on their vessels. The fear is that a mistake or misleading information from a bunker point might leave the responsible crew members unaware as to the exact make-up of the fuel.

Nautilus members have also highlighted a range of safety and operational concerns, including incidents of power loss when changing fuels, lubrication issues, filter problems and leaks. Fuel change-overs have created considerable extra workloads, with engineers needing to take special care to deal with such challenges as contamination, compatibility, stability, viscosity and lubricity, combustion and ignition qualities, cat fines, cold flow properties, and flash points.

The Sulphur Cap has been mandated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to cut harmful emissions from shipping. The Union's professional and technical committee extends beyond the criminal concerns as it has also discussed reports that low-Sulphur fuels are causing additional wear and tear on engine components, boilers, purifiers, filters, tanks, heat exchangers, and piping.

The warning follows a Nautilus Federation report, which earlier this year revealed that almost 90% of seafarers are concerned about criminalisation in the industry and two thirds said it impacted on the way they felt about working in shipping. Nautilus professional and technical officer David Appleton commented:

”Whilst we firmly support the moves to improve the shipping industry's environmental performance, it's clear that IMO 2020 is imposing a massive new burden on seafarers, both in terms of workload and in their exposure to potentially huge fines and criminal convictions. It's essential that shipping companies do all they can to provide their masters, officers and crews with the training and resources required to ensure compliance with the new rules.

”These are complex requirements, with complex and varied enforcement mechanisms, and our members need to be protected against the threat of legal proceedings arising from inadvertent infringement of the rules. As ever, Nautilus will support members who are exposed to unwarranted criminalisation, and it is also important that they contact the Union should they be forced to cheat the system in any way by management.”

The reputation of the shipping industry generally has been besmirched over the past few years by a series of scandals involving record keeping, mostly with regard to Oil Record Books, the so called ‘Magic Pipe’ cases. One hopes that such corruption will not creep into the fuel bunkering records of vessels sailing for unscrupulous owners.