ONBOARD THE PU TUO SAN (Reuters) – Off the coast of Singapore, the world’s largest ship refuelling center, a bunker barge sidled next to the supertanker Pu Tuo San to fill the giant vessel with a new type of fuel that will meet global standards that start up in January.
With a little over five months left until stricter marine fuel rules come into effect, shippers such as Singapore’s Ocean Tankers that own the very large crude carrier (VLCC) Pu Tuo San have started testing out lower sulphur fuel to prepare their fleet for the transition.
New International Maritime Organization (IMO) rules prohibiting ships from using fuels containing more than 0.5% sulphur, compared with 3.5% currently, will start on Jan. 1, 2020, as a way to combat air pollution.
The move will affect fuel supplies to more than 50,000 merchant ships globally. Shippers will have to either invest in exhaust cleaning systems, known as scrubbers, to continue using cheaper high-sulphur fuels, or burn more expensive oil products, such as very low-sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) and marine gasoil, or use liquefied natural gas (LNG).
The bulk of the global shipping fleet is expected to switch to low-sulphur fuels as only about 3,600 ships will have installed scrubbers by 2020, data from ship classification society DNV-GL showed.
Ocean Tankers, the shipping unit of Singapore’s largest independent oil trader Hin Leong Pte. Ltd., said it will convert its fleet of more than 100 oil tankers to burn VLSFO instead of high-sulphur fuel oil in the fourth quarter.
The Reuters energy team boarded the Pu Tuo San on July 11, which loaded about 1,000 tons of VLSFO for the first time. The ship also loaded 2,000 tons of high-sulphur fuel oil. A laden VLCC will typically burn about 55 tons of fuel oil per day at a normal cruising speed.