MARPOL Annex VI: New regulations – Prevention of Air Pollution


Published: 25 May 2005

MARPOL Annex VI came into force on 19 May 2005.  The new regulations introduce a variety of measures which are designed to control air pollution caused by bunkers.

Updated 2 June 2005


The Regulations set a limit of 4.5% limit on sulphur content of fuel oil which applies worldwide from 19 May 2005. Most fuel oil currently supplied is well within this limit.  However, a significantly lower limit will apply in SOx Emission Control Areas, the first of which is the Baltic Sea where a sulphur limit of 1.5% will apply from 19 May 2006.

Fuel oil supplied to the ship must also be free of inorganic acids or any added substances which can jeopardise the safety of the ship, harm ship personnel, or contribute to additional air pollution.

Many owners and an increasing number of charterers now participate in fuel testing programmes and will not use bunkers until satisfactory test results are received. This is a sound practice which can greatly contribute to loss prevention. We therefore recommend that owners either participate in such fuel testing programmes themselves, or ensure that their time charterers do so. This should be reflected by appropriate warranties in the charterparty. Participation in a fuel analysis scheme, and not using newly supplied bunkers until test results are received, will if relevant be one of the factors that the Association considers should bunker related claims arise.

Bunker delivery notes and sampling

The Regulations also require bunker suppliers to provide a bunker delivery note with prescribed information. A sample must be given to the vessel which has been taken in accordance with Guidelines issued by the IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC96(47)). The bunker delivery note must be retained on board for at least three years and the sample for twelve months.

It is compliance with these requirements which is likely to create problems, rather than the initial sulphur content limit of 4.5%. Owners should be prepared for these items to be checked as a part of port state control.


 Suppliers in states which are party to MARPOL Annex VI*  are obliged to meet the above requirements and to be registered with the appropriate authority. However, the majority of bunker suppliers are situated in states which are not yet party to the new regulations. This does not stop suppliers from complying voluntarily. Owners or time charterers can seek to impose a contractual obligation on their suppliers wherever they are located by using a suitable clause in the purchase agreement (see below).

A two tier market may develop with quality suppliers adhering to the requirements in all cases. However in the immediate future it is clear that some suppliers will not comply with MARPOL Annex VI requirements. This presents problems for both owners and  time charterers. A vessel which is unable to obtain a proper sample or a bunker delivery note from a supplier in a state not party to MARPOL Annex VI  may encounter problems during a port state control in a state where Annex VI is in force.

It is not clear how port state inspectors will deal with this situation. However, it may go some way towards helping if the vessel can document that efforts have been made to comply and a protest has been given.  DNV Petroleum Services have suggested that, if the ship participates in a testing programme, the fuel quality test report should be made available together with the supplier’s bunker delivery note, if available. This report would confirm the sulphur level of the fuel delivered, the fuel oil quality according to ISO 8217 and the quantity bunkered based where applicable on the supplier’s bunker delivery note and crew information.

*  Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Bahamas, Barbados, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Japan, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Norway, Panama, St Kitts & Nevis, Samoa, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Vanuatu.

Charterparty clause

 In view of the challenges faced by both owners and time charterers, Intertanko has published a clause for use in time charters. This clause confirms that owners will meet the emission limits in MARPOL Annex VI and any similar laws or regulations. In turn an obligation is placed on charterers to ensure that their suppliers provide bunkers which enable owners to comply with the emission controls. The suppliers must also meet the requirements laid down in Annex VI in relation to sampling and bunker delivery notes. Suppliers in states where Annex VI is in force must be registered.


  1. Owners warrant that the vessel shall comply with the emission control and other requirements of Regulations 14 and 18 of MARPOL Annex VI and any other laws or regulations relating to bunker specification and bunkering procedures applicable in any areas to which the vessel is ordered. 
  2. Charterers warrant that they will supply bunkers:
    a. of sufficient quantity and quality to enable the vessel to meet the emission control and other requirements of Regulations 14 and 18 of MARPOL Annex VI and any other laws or regulations relating to bunker specification and bunkering procedures applicable in any areas to which the vessel is ordered, and
    b. in accordance with the specifications in the latest version of ISO 8217 as at the time of supply and any other specifications contained elsewhere in this charterparty.
  3. Charterers further warrant that all bunker suppliers shall comply with the requirements of MARPOL Annex VI and MEPC96(47) in respect of sampling and the provision of a bunker delivery notes and, where bunkers are supplied in a state where MARPOL Annex VI is in force, that suppliers shall be registered in accordance therewith.

Intertanko has tried to take a balanced and practical approach which it hopes will be useful for owners and charterers alike.  Charterers should make sure that their suppliers are in turn obliged to comply with MARPOL Annex VI, either because they are situated in a state where Annex VI is in force or because this has been agreed in the supply contract.  If the trading pattern of the vessel is likely to make this difficult, charterers should consider carefully the extent of obligations which they can assume. Skuld Defence Services lawyers are able to give advice to members to reflect their individual requirements..

Bunker supply contract

 Both owners and time charterers depend on their suppliers in order to comply with Annex VI. Intertanko have also prepared a clause which can be inserted in bunker supply contracts to place an obligation on suppliers to provide bunkers which meet the quality requirements set out Annex VI, follow the correct sampling procedures and supply a bunker delivery note in the correct form. This clause can be used by owners or time charterers.


  1. Notwithstanding any other provision in the bunker supply agreement, the suppliers hereby warrant the following:
    a. All bunkers supplied shall comply with the quality requirements of  MARPOL Annex VI, 
    b. The vessel shall be provided with a delivery note in accordance with and containing the minimum information required by MARPOL Annex VI, 
    c. The vessel will be provided with a representative sample of the bunkers oil delivered in accordance with MARPOL Annex VI and the guidelines set out in MEPC96(47).

Port State Control (PSC)

 Draft Guidelines for Port State Control have been approved by the IMO Sub-Committee on Flag State Implementation. These Guidelines will be submitted for adoption by the MEPC (Marine Environment Protection Committee) which next meets from 18 to 22 July. Even when Guidelines are adopted, there are still legitimate concerns about how the authorities will deal with vessels which have bunkered in states which are not party to Annex VI from suppliers who are not willing to follow the requirements contained in Annex VI.  Intertanko have made a submission proposing amendments to the text of the draft Guidelines.

Further information is available in an article in the 1-2005 edition of Beacon.

Members seeking practical guidance may also be interested in the Intertanko publication: A Guide to Bunkering of Ships for the purposes of Annex VI to MARPOL.