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Skuld: Cat fines causing claims

Skuld issues advice on preventing engine damage from catalytic fines found in low sulphur fuel oil.




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The following is an article written by Margrete A. Nordahl, Claims Director, Master Mariner H&M, at marine insurance provider Skuld on preventing engine damage from catalytic fines in marine fuel oil:

The demand for low sulphur fuel oil has steadily increased over the years, concurrent with the changing and more stringent requirements of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) concerning air pollution.

Low sulphur fuel oils (LSFO) typically have a higher content of catalytic fines (cat fines) than high sulphur fuels, as fines end up in the low-sulphur by-products from refining processes and the by-products are blended with residual fuels to reduce their sulphur content.

ISO Standard 8217:2012 introduced a maximum permissible 60 ppm level of cat fines, expressed as Aluminium + Silicon, for marine residual fuels, a reduction from the 80 ppm levels in ISO 8217:2005. The level of 60 ppm Al+Si is maintained in the latest published ISO 8217:2017 Fuel Standard.

Engine manufacturers generally recommend a maximum of 15 ppm level of cat fines in the fuel entering the engines. As this level is significantly lower than the levels specified in the ISO Standards, it is essential to ensure adequate fuel handling and purification equipment and procedures are in place onboard to effectively bring the levels of cat fines in the fuel below 15 ppm.

As catalytic fines are very hard, they embed in the softer metal surfaces of cylinder liners, piston grooves and rings. Cat fines are particularly damaging to cylinder liners, because their surfaces are not polished or smooth.

Included below is a summary of recommendations on what the vessel should do to reduce the risk of damage to engines due to catalytic fines in marine bunker fuel [1] (Joint Hull Committee JH2013/006).

Before delivery of bunker fuel
It should be ensured that sufficient numbers of empty and clean tanks are ready to receive the new fuel and that there is sufficient existing fuel onboard to allow time for testing and receipt of analysis reports, in order that engineering advice can be acted on before the new fuel is used.

Drip samplers and equipment needed for taking representative samples of the fuel during bunker should be prepared and ready for use.

During and after bunkering

  • Draw continuous and representative bunker samples from each bunker source, barge or tanker during bunkering.
  • Arrange quickest possible dispatch of fuel samples from the bunker port to a laboratory for analysis.
  • Testing should preferably be against the latest ISO 8217 specification.
  • Await return of the fuel analysis report before using the new bunkers.

Storage of bunker fuel
Newly received fuel should, as far as practicable possible, be placed in empty tanks and blending of different parcels of bunkers should be avoided. If blending is unavoidable, it is strongly recommended that compatibility tests are carried out in advance of the fuels being blended.

Water and settled bottom sediments from fuel storage, settling and service tanks should be drained frequently. Settling and service tanks should also be cleaned regularly, at least once a year, to avoid long term build-up of cat fines and sediments at the bottom of the tanks [2] (Maurstad Marine Consult 2018). Cleaning of fuel oil storage tanks (bottom tanks) should as a minimum be done during each dry docking.

Fuel oil settling tanks should be drained for water at frequent intervals during periods of operation on heavy fuel, as cat fines are hydrophilic (dissolve/mix with water).

It is essential that oil drained from the fuel oil backwash filters is not reintroduced into the fuel treatment system.

Fuel oil purification
Never by-pass fuel filtering equipment! It could result in introduction of contaminated fuel to the engines.

  • Monitor and optimize fuel separator performance.
  • Where possible, run two purifiers in parallel with minimum flow.
  • Keep the HFO fuel inlet temperature at the optimal temperature of 98?C to ensure efficient purification.
  • In a conventional purification plant ensure the optimal gravity disc corresponds with the actual fuel.
  • Purifier capacity should be sufficient to deal with daily consumption plus 10% allowing some recirculation of fuel in the settling tank.
  • Arrange regular efficiency tests, by fuel specialist bodies.

Maintenance of equipment

  • Fuel system filters should be inspected and cleaned regularly – not only when alarms are activated.
  • Fuel treatment heaters to be regularly opened and cleaned to maintain optimal purification temperature.
  • Purifiers opened and cleaned at scheduled intervals, as per manufacturers recommendations.
  • More frequent cleaning if fuel quality is suspected to be poor.
  • If "dirty" fuels have been bunkered a few times, tanks should be cleaned at shorter intervals to avoid high concentration of cat fines at the engine inlet.
  • Adequate stock of spares onboard, necessary to maintain purifiers in good working condition.
  • If in doubt, ship's staff should seek advice from their superintendent or technical department.

It is recommended that ship's staff treat all residual fuel oils as if they contain cat fines. Bunker management plans should be available onboard the vessels and it must be ensured that responsible personnel is sufficiently familiarized and trained to fully and independently operate and maintain the fuel handling and treatment systems and that ship officers are familiar with requirements and recommendations by owner, operator and Industry Standards.

Take regular oil samples from the fuel oil settling- and service tank(s) and forward these to laboratory for analysis. The results received will give an indication of purifier performance and condition of fuel oil fed to the engine(s).

If ship's engineers see any signs or have suspicions that damaging levels of cat fines have entered the engine(s), they must take immediate actions necessary to prevent damages or escalation of damages in the vessels machinery. In the event cat fines have contaminated the low-pressure fuel oil system. – also the low-pressure fuel oil piping system must be thoroughly flushed [2].

Case study
The cargo vessel was on a laden voyage when heavy smoke started rising from the funnel. Her main engine was stopped and inspections revealed scratch marks and cracks in one of the cylinder liners (pictured). A new piston was fitted and the voyage continued to the destination port. On arrival, further inspections revealed cracks in another cylinder liner, worn piston ring grooves and broken / seized piston rings, despite the units only having 1,000 running hours.

High and low sulphur Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) had been bunkered recently and samples had been sent for testing. The Aluminium + Silicon level in the fuel was found to be high, but within the ISO specification. An attention warning was given by the fuel testing laboratory on how to handle and pre-condition the low-sulphur fuel before entering the engine.

The vessel's engineers increased the temperature and lowered the feed rate of separators, but did not run separators in series, as advised. One separator was running while the other was kept in stand-by.

Investigations revealed that the primary cause of the very costly engine damages was the failure in correctly handling and purifying the fuel in order to reduce the presence of cat fines to the level recommended by engine manufacturers.

[1] Joint Hull Committee (2013), "Marine Engine Damage due to Catalytic Fines in Fuel", London
[2] Maurstad Marineconsult (2018)

Photo credit: Skuld
Published: 5 July, 2018


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Sea Cargo Charter report demonstrates shipping’s shortfall against IMO climate goals

2024 report highlights the gap between current emissions and the IMO’s revised strategy for net-zero emissions by 2050.





Sea Cargo Charter 2024 report

The shipping industry must take urgent action to meet ambitious new climate targets set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), according to a new report released on Thursday (13 June) from the Sea Cargo Charter (SCC), a global transparency initiative developed by the Global Maritime Forum.

New data from the SCC, a global framework representing 20% of global bulk cargo transport, reveals the sector fell short of minimum international climate goals set by the IMO by an average of 17% in 2023, equivalent to 165 million metric tonnes of CO2e.

When considering ‘striving’ goals set by the IMO, signatories are on average 22% misaligned, which represents a shortfall of 204 million metric tonnes of CO2e in 2023.

Currently, dry bulk, general cargo, and tankers account for around 400 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. With global trade predicted to quadruple by 2050, emissions will skyrocket without urgent action.

Reporting has also been expanded to include “well-to-wake” emissions, which measure emissions from the extraction of oil to its end use, providing a more comprehensive picture of environmental impact and pushing the industry towards faster decarbonisation.

The 2024 report highlights the gap between current emissions and the IMO’s revised strategy for net-zero emissions by 2050. The report shows the importance of commercial and operational decisions on the vessels’ use (such as, instructed speed, cargo and routing optimisation, laden/ballast ratio), innovation and cooperation within the industry to be able to take action in this transition.

Other identified barriers to cutting emissions are geopolitical disruptions, limited alternative marine fuel options for long voyages, and a lack of infrastructure to support new technologies.

The 2024 Annual Disclosure Report was produced by the Global Maritime Forum, which performs secretariat services for the Sea Cargo Charter with expert support provided by UMAS and the Smart Freight Centre.


Photo credit: Sea Cargo Charter
Published: 14 June 2024

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Expert discusses technical considerations of using ammonia as marine fuel

Ammonia as bunker fuel poses significant safety challenges due to its toxicity and flammability, says ABS Regional Business Development Manager Muammer Akturk.





Technical considerations of ammonia as marine fuel

Muammer Akturk, ABS Regional Business Development Manager, on Monday (10 June) published an article on technical considerations of using ammonia as a marine fuel in his Alternative Marine Fuels Newsletter.

The article dives into the use of ammonia as a marine fuel, focusing on the safety and technical considerations necessary for its implementation.

Ammonia is recognised for its potential as a zero-carbon fuel, making it an attractive option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping industry. However, it poses significant safety challenges due to its toxicity and flammability.

Key points discussed include:

  1. Safety Measures: The importance of stringent design and operational safety measures to prevent ammonia releases and mitigate risks during both normal and emergency conditions is emphasized. This includes the need for gas dispersion analyses and the use of safety systems like gas detectors and alarms
  2. Regulatory Framework: The article reviews the latest regulations and guidelines developed to ensure the safe use of ammonia as a marine fuel. This includes the IACS Unified Requirement H1, which provides a framework for controlling ammonia releases on vessels
  3. Engineering Considerations: Technical aspects such as fuel storage, handling systems, and the role of risk assessments in identifying potential hazards and implementing preventive measures are detailed
  4. Human Factors: The article also considers the human factors approach to safety, emphasizing training and the importance of designing systems that account for human errorOverall, the article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the challenges and solutions associated with using ammonia as a marine fuel, highlighting the importance of safety and regulatory compliance in its adoption.

Editor’s note: The full article can be found at the link here.


Published: 13 June 2024

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JLC China Bunker Market Monthly Report (March 2024)

China’s bonded bunker fuel sales grew in March, as the shipping industry recovered gradually and sellers actively boosted sales on the back of ample supply and high inventories.





JLC Bonded bunker fuel sales in Zhoushan (Mar 2024)

Beijing-based commodity market information provider JLC Network Technology Co. recently shared its JLC China Bunker monthly report for March 2024 with Manifold Times through an exclusive arrangement:

Bunker Fuel Demand

China’s bonded bunker fuel sales surge in March

China’s bonded bunker fuel sales grew in March, as the shipping industry recovered gradually and sellers actively boosted sales on the back of ample supply and high inventories. Domestic LSFO prices were lower than those in Singapore and other neighboring ports, incentivizing shipowners or operators to refuel their vessels in China, with bunkering volume in Shanghai and Zhoushan rising considerably.

The country sold about 1.82 million mt of bonded bunker fuel in the month, with the daily sales up 13.59% month on month to 58,658 mt, JLC’s data shows.

Sales by Chimbusco, Sinopec (Zhoushan) and China ChangJiang Bunker (Sinopec) came in at 540,000 mt, 630,000 mt and 30,000 mt in March, while those by suppliers with regional bunkering licenses settled at 558,400 mt. At the same time, SinoBunker sold about 60,000 mt of bonded bunker fuel, the data indicates.

China’s bonded bunker fuel exports rise in first two months

China’s bonded bunker fuel exports rose in the first two months of this year, underpinned by fresh quotas and larger production.

The country exported a combination of 3.02 million mt of bonded bunker fuel in January-February, growing by 3.13% from the same months in 2023, JLC estimated, with reference to data from the General Administration of Customs of the PRC (GACC).

Heavy bunker fuel exports totaled about 2.85 million mt in the two months, accounting for 94.13% of the total, while light bunker fuel exports were 177,500 mt, accounting for 5.87%.

The increase in the exports mainly came as China released this year’s first batch of quotas on LSFO exports at the end of 2023. Though refiners’ LSFO production margins were relatively poor, they ramped up their production amid new quotas, which buoyed the exports. China’s LSFO output totaled 2.57 million mt in January-February, with the daily output gaining 2.69% year on year to 42,850 mt, JLC’s data shows.

In January alone, China’s bonded bunker fuel exports settled at 1.78 million mt, jumping by 11.93% month on month and 34.71% year on year.

However, the exports plunged to 1.25 million mt in February, down by 29.99% month on month and 22.75% year on year. Bunkering business at Chinese ports was halted during the Chinese New Year holiday, and customs’ clearing procedure for export was also affected by the holiday. In addition, the operation of many ports was hit hard by heavy snow and freezing rains, adding to the downward pressure on the exports.


JLC China bunker exports by region 2023 2024


JLC China major blending producers' bunker supply (Mar 2024)

Domestic-trade bunker fuel demand rises in March

Domestic-trade heavy bunker fuel demand recovered mildly in March, as the shipping industry rebounded after the Chinese New Year holiday. However, the demand growth was still limited as some shipowners still suspended services and the market was dominated by wait-and-see sentiment amid high prices.

Domestic-trade heavy bunker fuel demand was estimated at 430,000 mt in the month, a gain of 70,000 mt or 19.44% from a month earlier, JLC’s data shows.

Meanwhile, domestic-trade light bunker fuel demand was estimated at about 140,000 mt, a gain of 20,000 mt or 16.67% from a month earlier, the data indicates.

Bunker Fuel Supply

China’s bonded bunker fuel imports soar in Jan-Feb

China’s bonded bunker fuel imports soared in January-February 2024, due to a low base a year earlier.

The country recorded 581,900 mt of bonded bunker fuel imports in the two months, a surge of 27.36% year on year, with 359,200 mt in January and 222,700 mt in February, JLC estimated, with reference to data from the GACC.

China’s bonded bunker fuel imports dived to a record low in January-February 2023, as bunkering demand had not fully recovered from the epidemic, also because of high freight rates and ample domestic supply. The imports totaled only 456,900 mt in the first two months of 2023, tumbling by 48.01% year on year.

On the other hand, Chinese refiners boosted LSFO production in January-February 2024, limiting the import growth. These refiners produced about 2.57 million mt of LSFO in the two months, with the daily output climbing by 2.69% year on year to 42,850 mt, JLC’s data shows.

Russia became the largest bonded bunker fuel supplier in the first two months of this year, exporting 276,800 mt to China, accounting for 47.57% of the latter’s total imports. Malaysia ranked second with 186,800 mt, accounting for 32.10%, followed by South Korea with 95,800 mt, accounting for 16.46%. Japan climbed to the fourth place with 21,500 mt, occupying 3.69%, while Singapore slipped to the fifth place with only 1,000 mt, making up 0.17%.

In China’s bonded bunker fuel market, only HSFO and MGO are still mainly imported, while LSFO is rarely imported as its import efficiency is relatively low amid steep freight rates.

JLC Bonded bunker fuel imports by source Jan Feb 2024

Domestic-trade bunker fuel supply increases in March

Domestic-trade heavy bunker fuel supply improved in March, as availability of some blendstocks (such as low-sulfur residual oil and shale oil) increased.

Chinese blenders supplied about 460,000 mt of domestic-trade heavy bunker fuel in the month, a rise of 60,000 mt or 15% from February, JLC’s data shows.

Similarly, domestic-trade MGO supply rose to 160,000 mt in March, up 30,000 mt or 23.08% month on month, the data shows. Refineries’ enthusiasm for MGO production improved in March, as domestic MGO prices moved up along with domestic oil products.

JLC Arrival of imported fuel oil cargoes


JLC China main oil blending feedstock prices

JLC China domestic trading 180 cSt bunker fuel price 2023 2024

JLC China bunker blending profit by region 2023 2024

Yvette Luo
[email protected]

Sales (Beijing)
Tony Tang
[email protected]

Sales (Singapore)
Ginny Teo
[email protected]
[email protected]

JLC Network Technology Co., Ltd is recognized as the leading information provider in China. We specialized in providing the transparent, high-value, authoritative market intelligence and professional analysis in commodity market. Our expertise covers oil, gas, coal, chemical, plastic, rubber, fertilizer and metal industry, etc.

JLC China Bunker Fuel Market Monthly Report is published by JLC Network Technology Co., Ltd every month on China bunker market, demand, supply, margin, freight index, forecast and so on. The report provides full-scale & concise insight into China bunker oil market.

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be photocopied, reproduced, retransmitted, put into a computer system or otherwise redistributed without prior authorization from JLC.

Related: JLC China Bunker Fuel Market Monthly Report (February 2024)
RelatedJLC China Bunker Market Monthly Report (January 2024)

Note: China-based commodity market information provider JLC Technology has been providing Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times China bunker volume data since 2020. Data from earlier periods are available here.


Photo credit: JLC Network Technology
Published: 11 April 2024

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