FONAR Compliance: Getting it Right
Bunker suppliers, traders, and brokers must now be FONAR: Fully On Notice About Requirements.
With the prohibition on using non-IMO 2020 compliant fuels coming into force on 1 January 2020, Steve Simms of Simms Showers takes a forensic look at FONARS – and finds some of the wording open to interpretation
The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) voted in October 2016 to set a maximum 0.50% sulphur content for marine fuels from 1 January 2020 and at that point, the world had tens of thousands of vessels depending on higher sulphur content, residual fuel.
As 2020 approaches, bunker suppliers, traders, may be subject to fines, penalties, liability, and de-licensing if they fail to provide to their buyers accurate information to be included in the Fuel Oil Non-Availability Reports (FONARS).
In 2019, IMO’s MEPC introduced two new elements: an agreed FONAR form and greater bunker supplier responsibilities and is considering a voluntary licensing template.
When smaller ports may not have compliant fuel available or when some ports may be without the patented blends that a vessel has used safely, a profusion of blends may lead to more quality disputes, to bunker voyage planning management, and tensions between Owners requiring Charterers to buy engine safe fuel and Charterers wanting to purchase easily available, cost-competitive fuel.
Overshadowing all of these factors post-2020 will be price, but price is not a justification for a FONAR.
Regulation 18 (and ISO 8217) does not require vessels to take fuels that ‘jeopardizes the safety of the ship or adversely affects the performance of the machinery’.
Where there may be a FONAR, bunker suppliers must be prepared to provide reliable documentation about availability and be prepared to provide this documentation to the authorities.
Traders’ and brokers’ roles relating to the new FONAR requirements will be even more involved in voyage planning along with customers about fuel availabilities.
Consequently, because of the certification that bunkers suppliers must provide on BDNs, they must be very cautious about confirming non-availability and the basis for issuing a FONAR to a customer.
In many countries, certification takes on legal significance, that is, false certification leads to prosecution.
If the authority believes that the report is untruthful, the trader, broker and suppliers should expect, given the re-focus on bunker suppliers pre-2020, to face enforcement action.
MEPC 21 May 2019 (MEPC.1/Circ.884) published its ‘Guidance for Best Practice for Member State/Coastal State’, also focusing on bunker suppliers. Although not MARPOL Annex VI regulation, this ‘Guidance’ provides bunker suppliers, traders, and brokers with further confirmation about how enforcement, into 2020 and beyond, will focus more on bunker suppliers. In other words, the MEPC now encourages governments to be involved with fuel availability.
The IMO’s MEPC, with MARPOL Annex VI amendments that IMO has confirmed and will confirm, implemented by port and flag States, will as the MEPC’s 2019 focus on bunker suppliers shows, look increasingly to the ‘pump’ and make sure that any ‘prescriptions’ have properly been written.
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