Sulphur content of marine fuels, lead to sanction

Over the last few months we assisted in many sanctioning proceedings initiated by various Spanish Harbour Masters and the Directorate General of the Merchant Navy (DGMN) related to the sulphur content of fuels for maritime use used by ships docked and anchored in Spanish ports.

AIYON Abogados handled various cases before different Spanish Harbour Masters that sanction the sulphur content excess under an alleged breach in the regulation of Royal Decree 290/2015, of April 17th , which modifies the Royal Decree 61/2006, of January 31st . This regulation sets the specifications for gasolines, gas oils, fuel oils and liquefied petroleum gases; regulates the use of certain biofuels and the sulphur content of fuels for maritime use and transposes the Directive 2012/33 / EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, of November 21, 2012. In particular, the allegations are based on the breaches of the Article 11 of the mentioned RD 290/2015.

According to the records of different DGMN resolutions and from the experience of our law firm, the imposed fines due to this issue can reach up to € 15,000.00.

We have learned that on 14th of May 2010 and on 21st of December 2015 the DGMN issued operating instructions in an attempt to unify criteria and clarify concepts of the application of both Royal Decrees on the percentages of sulphur that can be contained in marine fuels. From the interpretation of the current wording of art. 11 of RD 290/2015 and in light of the applicable directives, together with the instructions issued by the DGMM, we consider advisable to have a special care in the docking and anchoring areas of ships in Spanish ports since, for the purposes of the Spanish maritime authorities it would be understood that a “docked vessel” is equivalent to an “anchored vessel” for the purposes of the applicable regulation and according to the parameters that are required in art. 11, with the sulphur maximum content of 0.10% by mass already in anchoring area.

Information that must be handled by shipowners and local shipagents, who must promptly inform on that reality in order to avoid, whenever possible, the opening of sanctioning proceedings due to the consumption of fuels with sulphur content higher than permitted; sanction files that could be avoided if the appropriate preventive measures are taken.