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IBIA: IMO moves closer to additional flashpoint regulations

It is clear many shipping organisations and several Member States want regulations preventing the supply of bunker fuels below the SOLAS flashpoint limit of 60⁰C.




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The International Bunker and Industry Association (IBIA) on Monday (7 June) published an update regarding discussions of additional flashpoint regulations at the 103rd session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 103) which took place in remote sessions held between 5 to 14 May 2021.

Efforts have been underway at the IMO for some time to ensure that oil-based bunker fuels, when delivered to ships, comply with the flashpoint limit of 60⁰C stipulated under SOLAS. The subject came up during the run-up to the IMO 2020 sulphur limit, amid concerns about the potential impact on ship safety associated with the move to fuels complying with the 0.50% sulphur limit required under MARPOL Annex VI.

While MARPOL is dealt with by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), safety aspects are also dealt with by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee under an agenda item called “Development of further measures to enhance the safety of ships relating to the use of oil fuel.”

IBIA, with the assistance of our Technical Working Group, has been closely involved in these discussions at IMO meetings, in IMO working groups and in IMO correspondence groups throughout, most recently at the 103rd session of the MSC (MSC 103) in May 2021.

After a week of intense debate at MSC 103, where IBIA had an active delegation supported by industry experts from our technical working group, some elements of the additional regulations under SOLAS are now near completion and on course for approval at MSC 105, which is expected to meet toward the end of the second half of 2022. MSC 103 re-established a correspondence group (CG) to continue this work, which will report to MSC 105 as there’s not sufficient time to have the CG finalise the work prior to MSC 104, which will meet later this year.

The CG has been instructed to:

  • Further develop, with a view towards finalization, draft SOLAS amendments relating to reporting of confirmed cases where oil fuel suppliers have failed to meet IMO flashpoint requirements.
  • Draft SOLAS amendments on actions against oil fuel suppliers that have been found to deliver oil fuel that does not comply with minimum flashpoint requirements.
  • Further develop mandatory requirements regarding the documentation of the flashpoint of the actual fuel batch when bunkering.
  • Further develop guidelines for ships to address situations where indicative test results suggest that the oil fuel supplied may not comply with SOLAS regulation II-2/4.2.1 (which says that no fuel oil with a flashpoint lower than 60 degrees Centigrade shall be used, unless specifically permitted).
  • Collect information on and consider possible measures related to oil fuel parameters other than flashpoint.

So where are we with all this? Will it get us closer to the aim of enhancing the safety of ships? There are conflicting views on how to best achieve the goal, which is to prevent supply of bunkers that fails to meet the SOLAS flashpoint limit or contain substances deemed to put ship and crew safety at risk.

It is clear from the desires of the many shipping organisations with consultative status at the IMO, and several Member States, that they want regulations targeting the supply side to prevent fuels below SOLAS limit from being supplied to ships in the first place, and to ensure suppliers face consequences if it still happens.

Discussions on flashpoint regulations during MSC 103

It is hard to summarise progress at MSC 103, but items which are closest to completion include a requirement for Contracting Governments (i.e. signatories to SOLAS) to report confirmed cases where oil fuel suppliers have failed to meet the requirements specified in SOLAS regulation II-2/4.2.1 (including a definition of confirmed cases) and to “take action as appropriate” against suppliers that have been found to deliver fuels that do not comply with SOLAS.

On the subject of mandatory requirements regarding documentation of the flashpoint of the actual fuel batch when bunkering, the majority view appears to support requiring that suppliers should report the actual flashpoint of the fuel delivered to the ship, similar to the MARPOL requirement for reporting the actual sulphur content on the bunker delivery note, as opposed to a declaration that the oil fuel supplied is in conformity with the SOLAS II-2/4.2.1 regulation.

IBIA has been questioning, during our input at IMO on the subject, whether this will make a difference given that suppliers already have to provide a material safety data sheet (MSDS) to the ship, which should guarantee that the fuel meets the SOLAS flashpoint limit, and because the supplier has also entered a contractual obligation to meet the flashpoint limit as fuels are largely sold against ISO 8217 specifications, which include a 60⁰C flashpoint limit.

At MSC 103, IBIA highlighted that we have yet to hear a good reason for requiring the actual flashpoint to be reported to the ship, as opposed to a statement that it meets the 60⁰C limit, because operationally the actual flashpoint should not matter; normal safety procedures still need to be applied. IBIA also explained that it is common practice during fuel testing to stop the test to determine flashpoint once the sample has been heated to 70⁰C or above, because that suggests that the 60⁰C limit has been met and no further testing is considered necessary. As such, the practical considerations and consequences do not appear to merit requiring an actual flashpoint value to be documented.

IBIA also commented on a proposal by ICS and the Cook Islands in MSC 102/6/2 to require a representative sample for the purpose of testing flashpoint to be taken at the time of delivery, which seeks to mandate the sampling location at the ship’s inlet manifold. IBIA told MSC 103: “This goes beyond the provisions for the MARPOL delivered sample, which is a guideline. The realities of bunkering operations means that it is often unsafe for a representative of the fuel supplier to come aboard the ship to witness sampling at the ship’s inlet manifold, and it is also usually impossible to monitor remotely as the ship’s inlet manifold will be completely out of sight from the bunker delivery vessel. Conversely, it is often possible to view sampling at the bunker outlet manifold from the deck of the receiving vessel, making this both safer and more practical.”

What was clear during these discussions was that there is strong desire to put more responsibility on the supply side to provide compliant fuels, but limited understanding of how testing for flashpoint actually works. Any justification for requiring an actual value to be reported as opposed a statement that it is above 60°C is vague.

Following discussion, MSC 103 endorsed an updated work plan aiming to complete measures related to the flashpoint of fuel oil at MSC 105, meaning the correspondence group will have a lot of work to do to provide fully developed draft amendments to SOLAS and associated guidelines.

How big is the problem?

Fuel testing agencies have data on flashpoint from fuels actually delivered to ships. While statistics vary a little between them, ISO/TC28/SC4/WG6, the ISO committee in charge of ISO 8217, has gathered data from most of the major testing agencies, which should give a fair overall representation.

The ISO comparative study showed that for the first half (H1) of 2020, there had been a small increase in distillate marine (DM) fuel samples with a flashpoint of below 60°C compared to during all of 2018, but it was still below 1% of all DM fuel samples. It found that 99.9% of very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) residual marine samples had a flash point meeting the 60°C limit, and that 0.08% had a flash point between 55°C and 60°C. In both 2018 and H1, 2020, more than 99.5% of HSFO samples met the 60°C flashpoint limit. Overall, then, it seems VLSFOs have been no more prone to off-spec flashpoint than HSFOs, while the share of DM samples below the limit showed a small increase during 2020.

Interestingly, an information document submitted to IMO by China (MSC 102/INF.18), reporting on lessons learned from three explosions in fuel oil tanks and two explosions of components of fuel oil booster unit/systems, showed that only one of those cases related to a fuel with a flashpoint below the SOLAS limit, reportedly measured at 37°C. In the other cases, the flashpoint had been measured above, and in some cases well above, 60°C.

The paper drew a clear causal link between the fuel with the flashpoint measured at 37°C and an explosion in a fuel oil storage tank, but the explosions in the other cases were linked to other factors. In the case where the flashpoint was measured at 37°C, it was reported that there was no flame screen fixed in opening of the oil mist box, and that moving flames ignited vapour after the fuel oil in the storage tank was heated

Incidents caused by low flashpoint fuels, fortunately, appear to be very rare. IBIA has previously been informed by the fuel testing arm of Lloyd’s Register, GMT/FOBAS, that LR has no records of incidents caused by low flashpoint fuels from 1970 and up to 2010, only for auto-ignition point.


Photo credit and source: International Bunker and Industry Association
Published: 9 June, 2021

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MAN Energy Solutions opens largest service hub in Singapore

New facility able to meet demand for repairs, maintenance and training services for MAN Energy Solutions’ alternative-fuel engines, such as two-stroke methanol dual-fuel engines.






Singapore on Friday (1 March) welcomed the opening of MAN Energy Solutions’ new mixed purpose facility today that will expand their local business activities.

MAN Energy Solutions is one of the global engine makers of alternative-fuel engines, and is driving the maritime energy transition by enabling the use of cleaner fuels in ships around the world.

Located in Tuas, MAN Energy Solutions' EUR 20 mil (SGD30 mil) investment will include a new MAN PrimeServ training academy for customers and employees, a logistics centre to serve as the warehouse for Asia, and a PrimeServ workshop to provide maintenance and repair services, including for MAN Energy Solutions’ alternative-fuel engines.

The new facility will serve as the largest service hub for MAN Energy Solutions’ activities and engagements outside of Europe, and will allow shipowners and ship managers to gain round-the-clock access to technical services for MAN Energy Solutions products such as repairs and maintenance of their alternative-fuel two-stroke engines, reduce turnaround times for ships due to quicker access to spare parts, and providing training for seafarers on the safe operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting of all MAN Energy Solutions equipment.

The new facility would also be timely to cater to the demand for repairs, maintenance and training services for MAN Energy Solutions’ alternative-fuel engines, such as the two-stroke methanol dual-fuel engines that are already available and for the two-stroke ammonia dual-fuel engines that are currently in development.

The mixed-purpose facility was launched by Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment.

SMS Khor said: “MAN Energy Solutions has been a long-time partner for Maritime Singapore since its establishment here in 1977. I am heartened that MAN Energy Solutions has placed a strong vote of confidence in Singapore by setting up its second hub outside of Europe here, setting the stage for collaboration in maritime decarbonisation, digitalisation, and talent development.”

“The expansion of MAN Energy Solutions’ workshop and warehouse activities will provide much needed capacity to support the maintenance of ocean-going vessels that adopt engines fuelled by new marine fuels.”

“MAN Energy Solutions' expanded training academy will also support Singapore's drive to upskill and reskill of our workforce, to build confidence for maritime workers to safely handle new marine fuels. I look forward to many more years of meaningful collaboration, especially in these emerging areas.”

Dr Uwe Lauber, CEO MAN Energy Solutions, said, “With over 9,000 square metres of floor space, Singapore is our largest hub outside of Europe in what is one of the most important maritime centres globally. We intend for this mixed-purpose facility to advance the maritime energy transition locally through education, logistics, and a comprehensive after-sales portfolio. Ultimately, we are ‘moving big things to zero’ and leading our customers towards a multi-fuel, decarbonised future.”

Mr Teo Eng Dih, Chief Executive Officer of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, said, “As the world’s largest bunkering port and major transhipment hub, Singapore is committed to the maritime digitalisation and the green transition. We have been long-time partners with MAN Energy Solutions and have been working closely together in various methanol and ammonia shipping consortiums and also in skills development.”

“MAN Energy Solutions’ new maintenance and training facility here will add deep expertise and experience to the growing and vibrant new fuels ecosystem here and also upskilling of our maritime workforce, especially in the area of new methanol and ammonia engines.”

Nicolas Brabeck, Managing Director, MAN Energy Solutions, Singapore, said: “This new facility represents one of the biggest investments that we have made outside of our product centres within recent years. It forms a key part of our company’s Triple 10+ business strategy that aims for growth through green technologies. In this context, we intend to equip our personnel with the right skillsets to handle the new technologies coming online and drive our business forward. We therefore expect to significantly increase staff numbers on-site to some 400 people by 2027, and look forward to cultivating great relationships with our customers and the various, Singaporean authorities.”

MAN Energy Solutions’ Singapore office is its largest service hub outside Europe, and currently employs 250 staff.


Photo credit: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Published: 4 March 2024

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Singapore Maritime Officers’ Union launches upgraded Wavelink Maritime Simulation Centre

Centre includes new dual-fuel engine simulators, offering realistic training scenarios to prepare seafarers for the evolving maritime landscape and the shift to cleaner bunker fuels.





Wavelink MPA

Singapore Maritime Officers'​ Union launched the newly upgraded Wavelink Maritime Simulation Centre (WMSC), according to Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Thursday (29 February).

The SGD 2.75 million facility includes new dual-fuel engine simulators, offering realistic training scenarios to prepare seafarers for the evolving maritime landscape and the shift to cleaner fuels, in line with industry sustainability goals.

The WMSC was unveiled by Minister Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment at SMOU’s seminar titled Advancing Maritime Resilience: No One is Left Behind.

The seminar, focusing on transition and training, aimed to reinforce shared responsibility, empower the maritime workforce through training, and champion sustainability without disadvantaging stakeholders in achieving #netzero emissions by 2050.

MPA's Assistant Chief Executive (Corporate & Strategy) Hoe Soon Tan participated in a panel discussion on "Prioritising a 'Just Transition", addressing strategies to bridge skill gaps and ensure a smooth and equitable transition for all seafarers.


Photo credit: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Published: 4 March 2024

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Singapore: EPS orders ammonia, LNG dual-fuel vessels from China

EPS signed one contract for a series of ammonia dual-fuel bulk carriers with CSSC Beihai Shipbuilding and another for a series of LNG dual-fuel oil tankers with CSSC Guangzhou Shipbuilding International.






Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping (EPS) on Wednesday (28 February) said it signed two new contract orders in a signing ceremony in Shanghai, one for a series of ammonia dual-fuel bulk carriers with CSSC Beihai Shipbuilding and another for a series of LNG dual-fuel oil tankers with CSSC Guangzhou Shipbuilding International. 

The contracts signed cover four 210,000 dwt ammonia dual-fuel bulk carriers and two 111,000 dwt LNG dual-fuel LR2 oil tankers, expanding our fleet of green vessels on water. 

“These are pivotal for EPS, testament to our continued commitment towards the decarbonisation of shipping,” EPS said in a social media post.

Manifold Times recently reported EPS signing a contract for its first ever wind-assisted propulsion system, partnering with bound4blue to install three 22-metre eSAILs® onboard the Pacific Sentinel

The turnkey ‘suction sail’ technology, which drags air across an aerodynamic surface to generate exceptional propulsive efficiency, will be fitted later this year, helping the 183-metre, 50,000 DWT oil and chemical tanker reduce overall energy consumption by approximately 10%, depending on vessel routing.

Related: Singapore: EPS orders its first wind-assisted propulsion system for tanker


Photo credit: Eastern Pacific Shipping
Published: 1 March 2024

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