March 3 ------ It became illegal for ships to carry high-sulfur fuel oil (HFO) unless the ship is equipped with a scrubber. The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) warns that any ships found to be non-compliant face the possibility of detention. As of March 1, maritime enforcement agencies no longer have to prove that the ship is using high sulfur fuel in order to issue a violation. If the vessel is carrying non-compliant fuel in its bunker tanks, and it lacks a scrubber, then that is all the evidence required. The major port state regimes - including the Paris MoU, Tokyo MoU and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) - have signaled that they will rigorously enforce the requirements, ICS said.
“Since the introduction of IMO 2020 on January 1, ships have been given a ‘grace period’ while the industry transitions to low-sulfur fuel. As of March 1 this will no longer be the case. Any ship found in non-compliance faces the prospect of serious fines and even detention," said ICS chairman Guy Platten. “The International Chamber of Shipping has been made aware that major port State inspection regimes including the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) have made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that detention of ships found to be non-compliant is both possible and legally permissible." Platten said that ICS understands that shipowners are within compliance already, but wishes to issue a reminder.
On January 1, 2020, the upper limit on the sulfur content of ships' fuel oil was reduced to 0.5 percent from 3.5 percent worldwide (widely referred to as the "IMO 2020" regulation). Initial reports indicate that the transition has run smoothly. The steep reduction in sulfur is expected to have health and environmental benefits, especially for people living close to seaports and coasts.