In just four months, the IMO 2020 sulphur regulation will come into force and shipowners,charters,bunker suppliers and ports all have their part to play in getting ready for 1 January 2020.As each party goes about their preparations, everyone should remind themselves that cooperation will be key to avoiding disputes.
BIMCO has helped ready the industry by publishing two IMO 2020-related clauses: the BIMCO 2020 Marine Fuel Sulphur Content Clause for Time Charter Parties and the BIMCO 2020 Fuel Transition Clause for Time Charter Parties.
Despite all the preparations, legal verbiage will not always be enough, and disputes will be hard to avoid when navigating the new regulatory territory. It is important that shipowners and charterers face 1 January with their minds positively set on solving conflicts and finding “diplomatic” solutions. All stakeholders will have to work with a spirit of cooperation.
While it is the time charterer who decides where they are going to employ the ship and where it will be bunkered, the owner has responsibility for implementing the 2020 plan.
Charterers might want to take advantage of the expected fall in the price of high-sulphur fuel oil and demand to stay on this type of bunker until the very last moment, while owners might want to prepare the tanks well ahead of 1 January to ensure any issues are identified in advance and so avoid the risk of non-compliance.
If the charterer does not cooperate with the owner in the preparations, the ship may have its available storage for compliant fuel significantly diminished-something that is unlikely to be in the interests of the charterer after 1 January 2020.
Preparation of bunker tanks could also present a challenge, as it will likely affect a time charterer’s operation if a ship needs to be taken out of service. Examples are many and answers few, as the entire industry braces itself for scenarios that will be firsts for many.
There is certainly potential for conflict. So, during this busy time, everyone should be preparing to cooperate if they want to prevent what we all want to avoid: disputes.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Xinde Marine News.
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