Cargo ship

There have been few reported incidents since the enforcement a year ago of stricter limits on bunker fuel burned by ships transiting the ECAs (emission control areas) of North Europe and the US.

There were concerns in the industry that there could be complications from the need to switch tanks to more expensive low-sulphur fuel when entering the ECA (or changing back when exiting) after several reported engine breakdowns on ships serving the US west coast, where new low-sulphur regulations were introduced 12 months earlier.

Nevertheless, this excellent Hapag-Lloyd Insight article explains that it is far from a straightforward operation to simply switch tanks from HFO (heavy fuel oil) to low-sulphur MDO (marine diesel oil): it is a complex process that begins some 24 hours before a vessel reaches an ECA border, and involves a number of ships’ officers.