Virtual reality and real world – IMO 2020 Cap

Italian authorities and coastal shipping found themselves in a rather difficult situation, and nobody yet knows how to deal with it – that is, with IMO 2020 Cap and its’ negative consequences. It was already announced, that sea transportation costs on Italy mainland – Sicily – Sardinia – Malta routes will have to be raised by 20-30%. It’s not all, though. What about much touted short sea routes in EU waters, a project called to reduce air pollution on Europe mainland, by shifting cargo flows from highways to sea routes? It’s validity is now questioned, too.

Absolutely the same drama is unfolding in Greece

In Indonesia, predictably, coastal shipping is still using old brands of fuel and just doesn’t know, how to switch to low-sulphur fuels, and remain afloat. Ferry lines fares are subject to special governmental regulation, and can’t be raised without governmental approval. But ferry operators can’t , simultaneously, switch to IMO 2020 fuels, not raise fares, and remain financially sustainable. It’s physically impossible. The same scheme applies to cargo shipping. Coastal shipping needs either subsidies to use low-sulphur fuels and not raise costs, or else it will go bankrupt.
But what will become of coastal communities? Indonesian nation can’t survive without stable, reliable and costs-affordable coastal shipping. IMO 2020 Cap goal, and nation’s well-being, probably mere survival, are not, so far, compatible. Will they ever be compatible, keeping in mind that a new threat is looming on the horizon, that we’re in for a war on CO2 emissions?

But if you want good news, go to Wall Street Journal and other mainstream media, and read stories like this one “Smooth Sailing for Ships After Historic Fuel Switch”. We’re said, that everything is just fine, and in general, IMO 2020 Cap effect is almost imperceptible, if talking about negative consequences. Author of the article or course, turned to most reliable and trustworthy sources, to substantiate his narrative – to IMO chiefs, to container giants like Maersk, and to bunker brokers.
“We are monitoring the situation and to date, whilst there have been some reports of tight supply of compliant fuel oil in some markets, so far we have not received reports of any significant issues,” an IMO spokeswoman said.
Satisfied? Reassured? Happy now?

Now, to fully comprehend this WSJ piece of art, let me give you an example – imagine a town, controlled by the mob. Everything and everybody are paying extortion money, but all in all, it was bearable for all concerned – for vendors, small shops and big shops, for trucks and delivery services, and for population in general. All of sudden, mob empowers new extortion “tariffs”, far exceeding old ones. To find out what’s going on, a fearless, objective and absolutely impartial journalist goes into a quest for the truth. The first place to visit and take interviews, is mob headquarters. Mob chiefs explain to him, why extra cost is good, harmless and almost imperceptible. Next places to visit are supermarkets, those whose final goal is total monopoly, and whose main enemies are small entrepreneurs. To dictate prices, they have to get rid of all competitors, so everything which may lead to their bankruptcy, is welcome. But somehow, journalist finds their opinion as fully satisfactory. All questions are answered, there is nothing to worry about, fears are absolutely groundless, concludes journalist.
A major switch in maritime fuel aimed at reducing emissions from ships is proceeding smoothly, shipping executives say, with new blends available in most ports and operators reporting few problems adapting to the fuel.

Voytenko Mikhail
January 16, 2020



My name is Mikhail Voytenko, I’m Russian, professional merchant marine navigator, by education and former experience. I own and run Maritime Bulletin website for more than 10 years. I've been involved in solving a number of piracy hijack cases, including the hijack of ro-ro FAINA, loaded with tanks. It was me who made public, and unravel, freighter ARCTIC SEA mystery. I've been also closely involved in a number of maritime disaster, one of them being MSC FLAMINIA major fire.