Legal Reasons

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Until recently the only test parameter that was a legal requirement as per ISO8217 was that of flash point. This particular parameter is mentioned in the Safety of Lives at Sea (SOLAS) regulations and states that any vessel carrying a fuel with a flash point below 60°C will be rendered as un-seaworthy. Any vessel found to be using fuel with flash point below 60°C will be invalidating their insurance. As soon as a fuel oil is found to have a flash point below the minimum limit, they must advise their insurance and classification societies for advice on how to handle the fuel.

Now we have the sulfur content of marine fuels as a legal issue.

Within the EU there have been laws in place controlling the sulfur content of distillate fuel within certain EU waters (mainly whilst vessels are at berth and on inland waterways). However, with the ratification of MARPOL Annex VI on 19th May 2005, the sulfur content of marine fuel oils has become a legal issue.

The global cap for sulfur content of marine fuel is set at 4.5%.

On the 19th May 2006, the Baltic Sea became the first Sulfur Emission Control Area (SECA) and it became a legal requirement for all vessels trading within the Baltic Sea to burn fuel oil with a sulfur content not exceeding 1.5%.

On 11th August 2007, the second SECA was introduced covering the North Sea and English Channel again defining that sulfur content must not exceed 1.5%. This was followed by EU enforcing the same regulations on 22nd November 2007.

However, there has been increased confusion on issues between the MARPOL Annex VI regulations and EU regulations which has meant that the interpretation of them has become vital to decisions made by ship owners/operators. In some cases it is possible to use fuel of lower cost with slightly higher sulfur content but remain within EU and IMO regulations.

Both flash point and sulfur levels within fuels are very important for ship owners/operators/managers to have knowledge of. Should their vessel be using fuel that is non compliant, the consequences could be serious resulting in heavy fines imposed on all parties concerned. The only way in which the exact flash point and sulfur level of both HFO and distillate fuel on board a vessel can be known is by taking part in a full testing program.



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