BIMCO: MARPOL signatories must step up as risk for bad bunker increases

The following is text of a news release from BIMCO:

(LONDON) — Recent reports of a rise in fuel contamination cases have increased the industry’s concerns over quality and safety of blended fuels as 2020 approaches. And for a good reason. A spike in demand for new low sulfur blends from Jan. 1, 2020 will greatly increase the risk of contamination. Lars Robert Pedersen, deputy secretary-general of BIMCO. calls for bunker states to take responsibility. 

When the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) 0.5 percent sulfur limit comes into force in 16 months, blending will increase significantly. Suppliers will have to blend the traditional heavy fuel with a lot of lighter refined products – products which are often cheap and of rather poor quality – to reduce the level of sulfur. 

“The risk that the new low sulfur fuel is not of the quality that it should be, and that it will cause operational problems, is bound to increase with the new sulfur regulation. The low sulfur fuel products needed on Jan. 1, 2020 are not developed yet. The suppliers do not know yet what they will look like or what blending components will go in there. That is a concern,” said Pedersen.

Bunker states must step up

While prevention of potential contamination cases is difficult, the shipping industry can, and should, call on bunker states to take responsibility when suppliers hosted in their state are caught supplying bad fuel. 

“Bunker states have committed under the MARPOL Annex VI to take action against suppliers in their territory, if they supply fuel that is different from what they declare. Should the bunker fuel delivered not match the bunker delivery note, the states have an enforcement obligation. Unfortunately, this is not really happening and therefore, there is little consequence if a supplier is caught supplying bad bunker fuel. That is unsatisfactory,” said Pedersen.

“By states taking legal action – like they have committed to do – every time contaminated and unsuitable fuel is distributed, it would become too expensive for the suppliers to continue this practice. It is not a 100 percent guarantee, but the shipping industry needs proof that states will take this serious ahead of 2020. It needs to change,” he said.

A few ways for shipowners and operators to try to anticipate and prevent operational problems is to place all new fuel in empty tanks. Doing a full analysis and screenings for known contaminants of the product is also a way to try and prevent operational problems from contaminated fuel. This should ideally be done before the fuel is received. If that is not possible, it should be done after bunkering and always before the fuel is used on board.

By Professional Mariner Staff