How can a SIP Support Smooth Sailing?

V.Group’s Global Head of Technical for Ship Management, John Kerr, explains the benefits of Ship Implementation Plans in the effective preparation of vessels for 2020.

What is a SIP and how can it help?

Given the number of risks and uncertainties involved, preparation is key in the run up to 2020; understanding how best to do that will enable shipowners to mitigate risks and minimise disruption. Ship Implementation Plans (SIPs) provide an effective means to achieve this, as well as providing evidence of environmentally compliant operations.

SIPs have been recommended by the IMO as a means to determine exactly what needs to be done for each individual vessel and ensure that it is prepared and ready to operate on compliant fuels. The development of a SIP requires a full review of available documentation, drawings and plans that covers a range of different areas. These include a detailed risk assessment and mitigation plan for the segregation of the different types of fuels, compatibility tests, and verification of machinery performance; a review of current fuel oil bunker tank arrangements and fuel bunkering plans; and the development of a Fuel Oil Changeover Plan that ensures that only compliant fuel is being burnt on and after 1st January 2020.

While there remain many questions around policing and enforcement, the IMO has made it very clear that any vessel that does not meet the regulatory requirements risks being declared unseaworthy. This could result in heavy fines, penalties, detention, delays, and in the event of an insurance claim, even affect charter party and or indemnity cover.

When 2020 hits, what fuels are people going to be using?

When the global bunker sulphur limit drops to 0.5% from 3.5% at the start of 2020, most of the world’s shipowners are expected to comply by switching from high sulphur fuel oil to ultra-low sulphur fuel oils (ULSFOs) with a sulphur content at, or below, 0.5%, unless equipped with emission abatement techniques (e.g. scrubbers).

Ultra-low sulphur fuel oils are new and unknown, what are the potential problems?

There are three main concerns in relation to ULSFOs, stability, compatibility and cat fines. To take each one in turn;


Stability of a given grade of fuel oil can be measured by laboratory analysis of the fuel. It is recommended that, wherever possible, the stability of any fuel to be stored and used on the ship should be verified. As fuel oil compliant with ISO 8217 (2017) is required to meet minimum stability requirements, it is recommended that fuels are ordered to this standard. Instability in fuel, if unrecognised and unchecked, results in the precipitation of asphaltenes which can cause severe problems such as sludging of the fuel tanks, filter blockages and excessive sludging of the purifier. This may lead – in the worst cases – to loss of propulsion and power.

Given the range of fuels that will need to be carried on board, the segregation of the different batches of fuel will be critical and will have a potential impact on the number of bunkering operations that will have to be carried out. This could affect cargo distribution and the careful management of the vessels stability must be considered as part of preparation for 2020.


Due to regional differences many of the ULSFOs are thought likely to be incompatible with each other, causing logistical challenges for shipowners planning when and where to bunker their vessels after 2020. Widespread concerns raised to date include whether there will be compatibility between the various ULSFOs so that ships can use one after each other, amid likely variance in bunker fuel composition in different ports, without a risk (which also exists today) of potential compatibility issues. Onboard handling practices will need to take into account likely changes in fuel types, including fuel segregation and routine compatibility testing.

Cat fines

Catalytic fines, or cat fines, are abrasive particles comprised of aluminum and silicon oxides found in heavy fuel oil that contains blend components coming from the catalytic cracking process in the refinery. They can cause severe abrasive wear and create irreversible damage to a vessel’s pistons rings, and cylinder liners. When fuel is stored for extended periods of time, cat fines settle out of the fuel and build up as sediment in storage/settlement tanks. If the tanks are not drained regularly, this sludge can enter the fuel system and cause substantial damage especially during periods of bad weather when the ship’s motion can stir these up. With the blending of the fuels oil to achieve the required 0.5% sulphur limits it is anticipated that there will be an increase in the cat fines. Whilst the industry is familiar with them the correct operation of the fuel purifiers will be critical to the operational reliability of the main and auxiliary engines.

Why is V.Group well placed to help?

As the leading global marine support services provider, with a portfolio of over 1,000 managed vessels, V.Group is uniquely placed to offer SIPs. Thanks to our size and scale, 1,200 shore-based staff, 60 offices, and knowledge and expertise of different regions and sectors as well as access to global resources, V.Group is the ideal partner to provide practical, accurate advice, tailored to the customer’s operating region and sector.

Our dedicated experts can indicate compliance method; fuel management and storage; modifications; fuel range; steam balance analysis; contingency considerations; and changeover.

As the leading ship manager, we’re fully committed to helping our customers stay ahead of regulatory curves, while at the same time building resiliance and future profitability in a volatile market environment.