The year’s biggest breakbulk exhibition took place in Antwerp this week. The conference that’s part of the event, included a panel discussion entitled ‘Sulphur Shock: Countdown to 2020’. It featured Alex Strogen of GE, a major breakbulk OEM, Patrick Legault of Falcon Logistics, a Canadian freight forwarder and Robin Meech, a prominent bunker industry expert. The discussion was moderated by WWL’s Roger Strevens.

The purpose of the discussion was to draw attention to the commercial aspects of the 2020 change in the global limit for sulphur in ship fuel.  Specifically, the cost that shippers (cargo owners) should anticipate, which was estimated as being in the region of a 20% rate increase from January 1st 2020. Additionally, the difficulties relating to enforcement were explained in terms of three different risks: a) the risk of not being able to compete on an level playing field, b) the risk of paying of compliance that is not received and c) the risk of brand damage arising from having a non-compliant carrier in your supply chain.

A show of hands revealed that for many the subject was unfamiliar to most of the audience, so it was proved fitting that the session opened with a quick ‘crash course’ presentation by Robin and Roger. There was good interest the topic, which was reflected in the wide range of questions the audience had for the panel both during and immediately after the discussion. The main takeaways centred on the importance of engaging with the issue now given that leaving it till the eleventh hour would likely lead to an expensive and sub-optimal outcome, whether as a shipper or as a carrier.