A Major Shipping Change Is Coming, and So Are Higher Fuel Prices
Comment of the Day

December 19 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

A Major Shipping Change Is Coming, and So Are Higher Fuel Prices

This article by Firat Kayakiran, Jack Wittels, and Rachel Graham for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

It’s important to remember that oil refineries and shipping companies spent billions getting ready.

Some shipowners installed scrubbers, units that can cost several million dollars each and allow carriers to remove sulfur from fuel as it’s burnt. This enables them to keep using today’s cheaper product. Likewise, refineries have invested in technology to convert sulfur-rich crude into higher-quality fuels.

For compliant companies, cheating by others is a problem. Yet there could be non-compliance, at least initially. Industry estimates are that something like 10%-15% of the fleet won’t comply with the rules at the start.

Not every country in the world signed up to the regulations, including some large coastal states with significant refining capacity. Even among those that did, not all look likely to start with strict enforcement. There’s also a disparity between what penalties will be imposed from one nation to the next.

South Africa, which sits on a shipping lane connecting eastern and western hemispheres, doesn’t yet have the domestic laws in place to punish non-compliant vessels. The United Arab Emirates, a vital refueling hub in the Middle East, has pledged to avoid draconian enforcement.

Eoin Treacy's view

The risk of noncompliance, the difficulty in enforcement, the expense of retrofitting aging vessels and supplying new distillates suggest there is clear potential for the IMO2020 rules to represent a period of volatility over the coming months. It is going to take time for the new system to bed down and for companies to see the reality of the sector following the change.

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