Questions on US clean-up operation

Up to 100 vessels could have been affected by contaminated marine fuel oil stemmed at ports in the Houston and US Gulf region, report Paul Dean and Rory Grout of legal firm HFW in Baltic Briefing. Contaminated fuel supplies of blended fuel oils such as IFO 380 were detected in the US Gulf region in February this year and appear to have persisted.

Initial reports, based on fuel-testing methods such as Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS), said that the principal contaminant was probably adhesive phenolic compounds.

The issue appears to have been exacerbated by the fact that conventional fuel testing analysis performed in accordance with the ISO 8217 requirements and fuel specifications, commonly incorporated into marine fuel supply contracts and also time charterparties, failed to the detect the contaminants.

Because a number of suppliers have been affected there has been speculation that the problem is linked to a refinery, or cutter stocks – lighter petroleum products added to heavier fuel to reduce viscosity.

Paul Dean is a partner and Rory Grout is a senior associate, both at the London office of HFW. Mr Dean is HFW’s representative on BIMCO‘s subcommittee established for the development of a charterparty clause that will address the 2020 global sulphur limit.