Maersk brings off-spec bunker case against Glencore in SDNY

Denmark-based shipping company Maersk is seeking to recover $6m plus costs from Switzerland-based, Jersey-registered commodity trader Glencore, following the supply in Panama early in 2018 of allegedly contaminated fuel oil.

The case has been filed in the US District Court in the Southern District of New York, by Maersk Oil Trading and Maersk Line AS – now known as Maersk AS.

The claim relates to a fuel swap of 24,000 barrels of RMK 700 bunker fuel between MOT and Glencore at Balboa, Panama. The fuel was delivered to MOT Panama by Glencore from the PATSA tank terminal and the Maersk chartered bunker barge, Kollum, subsequently supplied the fuel to container ship Sofie Maersk (IMO 9146479) and container ship Maersk Aras (IMO 9624275).

The documents filed by Maersk state that “the parties engaged in no discussions during the negotiation of either the Swap Deal or the Email Recap with respect to the issue of whether Glencore (or Maersk) would ultimately be liable for any consequential damages suffered by Maersk in the event of a breach.”

The filing continued: “Specifically, it was never agreed that Glencore would not be liable for any consequential damages suffered by Maersk nor that Maersk would not be liable for any consequential damages suffered by Glencore as part of the “swap’.”

The Maersk Aras began burning the fuel on February 15th 2018. Two days later it suffered a complete engine failure. The ship had to divert to Manzanillo, Mexico, where it took on an additional 1,100 barrels of replacement fuel in order to continue to trade (IMN March 7th 2018).

The Sofie Maersk began burning the fuel on March 1st and was said to have experienced fuel pump issues on March 2nd, followed by main engine failure on March 4th while underway in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (IMN March 15th 2018)

As a result of the main engine failure, the Sofie Maersk had to be towed as a dead ship to Honolulu, Hawaii, for repair and the provision of 2,100 mt of replacement fuel oil, said Maersk.

Analysis of the fuel supplied to both ships, undertaken by VPS in Houston, Singapore and in the UK, was claimed to have shown it was off-spec, containing “numerous contaminants such as plastic, fibres, black gum, paraffins, fatty acids, and other components that are impermissible for marine fuels and in violation of the agreed RMK 700 quality standard set by the ISO”, the court filing claimed.

1998-built, Denmark-flagged, 92,198 gt Sofie Maersk is owned by Taida International Shipping care of manager Maersk AS of Copenhagen, Denmark. It is entered with Standard Club on behalf of Taida International Ship Lease Co, Ltd.

2013-built, Panama-flagged, 45,169 gt Maersk Aras is owned by Kyowa Kisen/Green Spanker care of manager Kyowa Kisen Co Ltd of Hakata-cho, Imabari-shi, Ehime-ken, Japan. ISM manager is Seoyang Shipping Co Ltd of Busan, South Korea. It is entered with Japan Club (Imabari Office in charge) on behalf of Green Spanker Shipping SA.