“Commonalities” identified in contaminated fuels

Reports from testing agencies have identified certain commonalities between contaminated fuels that have caused problems for more than 100 vessels since problems were discovered in the area of the Gulf of Mexico and later in South-East Asia

The tests reportedly indicated that the problem fuels contained chemical contaminants from non-petroleum sources. The most commonly reported findings include phenols, fatty acids, and markers typically associated with Tall Oil (AKA liquid rosin or tallol, a viscous odorous liquid obtained as a by-product of the Kraft process of wood pulp manufacture when pulping mainly coniferous trees).

Ships began experiencing fuel-related problems with fuels, which had passed ISO 8217 specification tests, earlier this year. The first reports of severe operational problems came after ships started to use fuels lifted in the US Gulf area, chiefly Houston, mainly lifted during March, April and May 2018. In June and July similar issues were reported by ships lifting bunkers in Panama and Singapore. The issues associated with problem fuels have manifested in the form of sticking of fuel injection systems components, excessive sludge formation, or both. In some cases, these issues have been so severe as to cause a loss of main engine power.

Meanwhile, Maritime Management senior VP Don Carroll said at ShippingInsight’s Fleet Optimization & Innovation conference held in Stamford, Connecticut on October 17th that the impact of fuelling with contaminated bunkers was being unfairly born by shipowners.

He said that there was lack of accountability from marine fuel suppliers who sold contaminated fuels, noting that T’s and C’s for the sale of bunkers gave shipowners only about 15 days to present a marine fuel contamination claim against the fuel supplier. Fuel analysis results could come in too late to file a claim.

MTM owns 28 chemical tankers, ranging in size from 19,717 dwt to 35,650 dwt; four oil tankers ranging in size from 44,996 dwt to 49,746 dwt and 15 dry bulk vessels ranging from 33,000 dwt to 39,848 dwt, in addition to chartered dry bulk vessels.

Carroll said that MTM was now using gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) tests on their fuel as well as standard bunker testing. But he said that shipowners could not get the GCMS results prior to fuelling their vessels, and once contaminated fuel was on board of the vessel and they have used it, they could not debunker it. They ended up buying “good fuel” to blend down the contaminated fuel in their vessel tanks, and they used testing agencies to advise them what percentage of the “good” fuel they have to put in with the bad fuel. Carroll claimed that in some instances, they have had to re-fuel with “good” fuel several times, and it has taken them six to nine months to use up the contaminated fuel.

To protect themselves, Carroll said that shipowners could consider organizing and filing a class action suit against suppliers. He concluded that “the IMO  has been ignoring the bunker supply transparency aspect of the business…we need lawmakers to impose regulations from the ultimate source of the fuel to the end supplier”.

Longer, interesting piece on the contaminants problem at: https://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/ibia-barking-up-the-wrong-tree/