Regulators must act quickly to fix fatal flaws in the way the 0.5% bunker sulphur cap will be introduced next year, the president of Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) said on Wednesday.

If not, they risk plunging the industry in disarray that may cost human lives, TheodorevVeniamis said.

"It’s beyond comprehension that just a few months before the regulation kicks off, so many implementation issues remain open, which require immediate solution," Veniamis said in a shipping conference in Athens.

"I have stressed to everyone at the IMO, from the secretary general down to the secretariat, that the way they’re about to implement it [the sulphur cap], I am sure the day will come they lose their sleep with what’s happening to shipping."

He added for emphasis: "God be with us."

The IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) meeting 101, which is about to start shortly, should address a host of issues.

“We will mourn victims otherwise,” Veniamis added in a rare press conference after his speech, wondering why shipping companies should be the only ones to be held accountable if fuels incompatible with engines or with each other should cause accidents.

“Safety issues aren’t resolved by printing manuals, as oil companies are suggesting,” the UGS chief said.

He claimed that shipowners aren’t even sure that 0.5% sulphur fuels by the same petroleum company will be compatible, when provided in different ports. “Everyone just talks but no-one guarantees anything,” he said.

Citing research seen by the UGS, Veniamis said he expects the supply of 0.5% sulphur-content bunkers to cover just between 50% and 60% of worldwide demand. To sufficiently service every ship, in every port at any given time, that ratio needs to go up to 150%, he argued.

The UGS chief said there were are already signs that safety and quality concerns about blend fuels, which many vessels will likely use, are beginning to affect the insurance market, with premiums spiking.

“That should tell you a lot about what’s going to happen,” said Veniamis, who is a principal of dry bulk company Golden Union.