ILT presents new bunker tank sulphur check method

The Netherlands Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT) has developed an innovative and safe method for taking samples from bunker tanks within seagoing ships. Sampling is part of the checks on the maximum permitted sulphur content of the fuel oil these ships use. On 10 December, ILT is organising the international web conference 'Sulphur 2020 Enforcement'. At this online conference, the Inspectorate will share its technology behind the sampling method with maritime inspectorates from around the world.

Zeevaart zwavelinspecties

Since 1 January 2020, new, stricter global limits have been in place to limit the sulphur content in marine fuel oil. Since this date, it is illegal to use or carry fuel oil that contains more than 0.5% sulphur, unless the ship is equipped with a exhaust gas cleaning system (scrubber). In some seas, such as the North Sea, fuel oil standards are even stricter with a maximum sulphur content of 0.1%. The goal of these limits is reducing polluting sulphur emissions, which harm the environment and public health.

International web conference

On 10 December, the first international conference focused on compliance with sulphur emission standards by seagoing ships is taking place. The Netherlands is organising this online meeting to share knowledge and experience. 26 countries are taking part in this conference, 12 of which are from outside Europe. Participants will discuss subjects such as remote sensing and sampling, and international exchange of information.

Checking sulphur content by taking samples from bunker tanks

Maritime inspectorates from around the world face the challenge of sampling oil from bunker tanks in order to check sulphur levels. During the conference, ILT will present its method of sampling via the sounding pipe: the 'vacuum method' for bunker tanks close to the surface and the 'flow method' for double bottom tanks. For both methods, ILT has developed a sampling kit not costing more than € 3000. By sharing its knowledge, ILT wants to support other countries in their enforcement efforts around ships' sulphur emissions.

Improving international cooperation

With this first international web conference, ILT aims to boost international cooperation. This creates a level playing field around the world and will lead to lower emissions. One of the ways to achieve this, is increasing international signalling of ships that appear to be breaking the rules. So they can be checked upon arrival in another nation's port.

Remote sensing

As well as sampling on ships in port, remote sensing plays an important role in enforcement. 'Sniffing poles', airplanes and drones can detect a spike in sulphur emissions. Further, the Netherlands is frontrunner in developing methods that utilise satellite imagery to measure individual ships' emissions far out at sea.


Video: Bunker tank sampling

This video explains how inspectors of the Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (the ILT) sample fuel oil from bunker tanks. The ITL samples fuel oil because ships are not allowed to use high Sulphur fuel.