Safety must come first with alternative fuel use – IMO chief

Insurers have been told to brace themselves for new rules on the use of alternative fuels on vessels as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) looks to drive new safety standards.

Speaking at the International Union of Marine Insurance’s (IUMI) annual conference, in Edinburgh, Dr Heike Deggim, (above) director of the IMO’s maritime Safety Division, said the move was part of the organisation’s work to slash greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the maritime sector.

“The focus on GHG is an important development,” she explained. “We have been working on a number of measures around the issue.”

Deggim revealed the IMO’s theme for 2024 will be “Navigating the future – Safety First”.

The concerns around the use of alternative fuels went hand in hand with the concerns of the risks that new technology on vessels also pose Deggim explained, and both were to be the subjects of new rules and regulations at the next meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee in May of next year following the preparation of a number of reports into the issues and potential solutions.

“The development and use of alternative fuels on vessels have necessitated the adoption of new safety requirements, and the current requirements do not support the use of such alternative fuels on vessels.”

She said there was ongoing work around the safety rules around hydrogen and ammonia powered ships and the IMO was in talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over the potential use of small nuclear power stations placed in ports around the world to support a new breed of nuclear vessels.

“We need to make sure any GHG measures taken by the IMO are safe to use,” Deggim added.

On the collapse of the Black Sea Grain Corridor from Ukraine in July, she revealed the United Nations remained in talks with Russia and Ukraine in an effort to reopen the corridor and export millions of tonnes of grain and agricultural supplies needed to support the global food chain.

“We are hoping that the corridor can be renewed,” she said. “It is difficult to see when this will happen, but the United Nations is in negotiations to get it going again and we hope that they are successful.”

Deggim added: “There are currently 59 vessels still trapped in ports and we have seen only four vessels able to leave the ports since the start of the conflict. Those vessels which are in Ukrainian ports have a chance to get out but those in ports controlled by Russia not so.”

Work towards the implementation of the Maritime Single Window, which would see information on the arrival and departure of any vessels in ports around the world placed on a single platform continues but some nations are struggling to be ready in time for the implementation deadline of 1 January 2024, she said.

“Some are not ready for the window, and we have a number of initiatives to support them,” Deggim explained. “We are also seeing some developed nations who have completed the necessary work now looking to support those who are behind.”