AMSA Conducts Marine Environment Low Sulphur Fuel Oil Study

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is conducting research throughout 2021 into how Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oils (VLSFOs) behave if spilled into the Australian marine environment.

The National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies sets out national arrangements, policies and principles for the management of maritime environmental emergencies.

The purpose of the Plan is to minimise the impacts of marine pollution from vessels when these incidents occur. Impacts could encompass effects on the environment, cultural and heritage resources, economy or infrastructure. To support the objective of the Plan, AMSA is collecting VLSFOs from visiting ships to analyse their properties, to better understand the behaviour, of these new fuels.

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AMSA’s Senior Advisor, Strategic Risk and Science, Mr Paul Irving said that it is important for AMSA to understand how new fuels used or carried by the shipping sector might behave if spilled into the Australian marine environment.

“VLSFOs are relatively new to the shipping industry and it is important that we understand how they might behave if spilled in Australian waters,” Mr Irving said.

“From the initial seven samples we analysed, it is pretty clear that these VLSFOs are very diverse and variable in their manufacture and presentation. This gives us hope that they may present a lower threat should they be spilled, but we need to confirm that with a larger study.

“We are now expanding our research by collecting more samples. These will come from a whole range of ship types and a much wider – worldwide – sample of ships coming to Australia.”

AMSA’s Executive Director Response, Mr Mark Morrow said that he is proud of the ground-breaking work his team is doing to protect the unique Australian marine environment.

“Australia’s economic wellbeing relies on shipping. We also have some of the most beautiful, pristine environments in the world; full of diverse marine life, often very close to shipping lanes and ports,” said Mr Morrow.

“What our team is doing is understanding how best we can respond to a potential spill to protect our marine environment, so we are ready to respond should this happen.

“These are time sensitive incidents, so the more we know about how different pollutants behave when they hit the water, the better.

“Should a spill occur, my team needs to understand what they are dealing with and how best to respond. We should also be able to provide that advice to state and industry responders, as well as the Australian community. The safety of those who carry out such important work is a high priority.”


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