There is no doubt that the 2020 Global Sulphur Cap is a good thing, environmentally and socially - it certainly ticks those boxes. However, the economic and logistical boxes still remain unticked as we race towards December 31st, 2019. It may still seem like a long way off, but considering that 0.5% LSF is not yet widely in production, the very idea that one could (if it was actually possible or affordable) fit scrubbers to even 10% of the fleet, in the time available - is fanciful. So LSF will become the norm, in time things will settle and we will do our best to continue with trade. That is of course the ideal scenario.
However, there are four current schools of thought on what will happen:
- Chaos – not enough LSF.
- Organised chaos with winners (fuel suppliers) and losers (users paying high prices).
- Deception (catch me if you can/or I just got caught.)
- We are experiencing a little turbulence but the seatbelt signs will be turned off shortly.
Many are in one or even several of these camps, hedging their bets. The fact is that there will be disruption and the overarching question will be: “Fuel quality – is it good, is it to spec, is it stable?". The fact that the bunker industry supports such a large sector of the legal profession with bunker claims today, along with the pre- Sulphur cap, is testimony to the fact that ‘certain practices’ are occurring and that loading bunkers is certainly a practice where vigilance is required.
The bunker purchase, loading and sampling process is well organised and lab reports are robust but they are not always timely. There are many cases of bunkers loaded, vessels sailing and then a report is produced stating that the fuel is out of spec.
It is unrealistic to think these anomalies will be fewer post December 31st, 2019 – the forecast shows they will increase, some by design and some by default.