Is it reasonable to withdraw from agreements on environmentally friendly marine fuels?
- Amid the attempts of western countries to block Russian shipping, a question arises on reasonability to comply with ‘green’ requirements on marine fuel set forth by the international conventions given that they considerably increase the cost of shipping. According to MARPOL requirements, sulphur cap of 0.1% is in force from 2015 in emission control areas (ECAs). From 1 January 2020 the global upper limit on the sulphur content of ships' fuel oil is reduced to 0.5% (in international areas beyond ECA).
In this context, there are proposals to withdraw from those agreements since they had been lobbied by countries that are listed as unfriendly ones due to imposing sanctions on Russia. Moreover, those countries are importers of oil and they are interested in the development of alternative sources of energy and pushing suppliers of conventional fuels, primarily Russia, from the market. If Russian sips are banned from entering the western countries’ ports amid sanctions, what's the sense of complying with those requirements?
Nevertheless, withdrawal from MARPOL will entail numerous negative consequences, which will, in our opinion, overweigh the positive effect. MARPOL requirement are actually applicable not only in unfriendly countries but also in those which do not support the sanctions. Therefore, calling at such countries’ ports can also be a problem for ships using non-compliant fuel. Besides, Russian refineries had invested essentially in production of environmentally friendly fuel, hence the return to high-sulphur fuel oil means the loss of those investments, rejection of Russian fuel imports and absence of foreign ships’ calls at Russian ports for bunkering.
Furthermore, Russia can and should take advantage of the environmental agenda in general. With its enormous reserves of natural gas and oil not in demand amid sanctions, the country could use them for production of ecological fuels, particularly for exports.
On the other hand, IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) has adopted amendments to MARPOL Annex I (addition of a new regulation 43A) to introduce a prohibition on the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oil (HFO) by ships in Arctic waters on and after 1 July 2024. With its coastline bordering the Arctic waters, Russia may temporarily wave the requirements in respect of Russian-flagged ships sailing in waters of Russian jurisdiction up to 1 July 2029. We think it is really no need to hurry in this respect.
Bunker issues will be in the focus of the 15th All-Russian Forum "Current State and Prospects of Development of the Russian Bunkering Services Market" (23-24 June 2022, Saint-Petersburg) >>>>