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UK P&I Club: Off-spec bunker issues extend to Panama

12 Jun 2018

Off-spec cases of bunker fuels lately seen in Houston and the US Gulf Region have also extended to Panama, informs protection and indemnity insurance firm UK P&I Club.

“These claims appear to relate to fuel bunkered late March-May this year, with the problems manifest variously in the form of sticking and seizure of fuel injection system components and blocking of fuel filters,” says Amanda Hastings, Claims Executive at Thomas Miller P&I Europe.

“Evidence suggests that the cause of the problems is linked to the inclusion of adulterants, or contaminants, in the fuel that are of non-petroleum refining origin.”

Hastings noted of at least two different forms of contamination involved in the Houston and Panama off-spec cases; some showed evidence of chemical waste related to bisphenol manufacturing operations, others showing evidence of bio-derived contaminants including Tall Oil, a bi-product from the timber industry.

Current standard ISO 8217 test requirements involve the determination of a series of physical and chemical characteristics, and include tests designed to assess the levels of normal manufacturing and handing impurities.

However, these do not include tests and limits for all possible contaminants that might occasionally finding their way into marine bunker fuels.

“[…] And there are materials which can adversely affect the fitness of fuel for use in a marine engine, the presence of which will not necessarily be revealed by the basic Table 1 (distillate fuels) or Table 2 (residual marine fuels) Test Requirements,” she notes.

“At present, there are only a limited number of laboratories worldwide that have the facilities to conduct the appropriate range of analyses that may be required to get to the root of the problem and, as such, scheduling is not easy at present, and the usual 24 hour turnaround, normally obtained in fuel testing programmes for the standard ISO 8217 Table 2 tests, largely unattainable for the more detailed investigative analyses.”

While sticking fuel pumps have been the only indication of a problem, Hastings recommends engineers to stop using the fuel immediately when discovering blockages of the filters.
“Stop using the fuel and segregate if possible,” she advises.

“You should retain fuel samples for laboratory analysis and any damaged/seized components (fuel injection pump barrels/plungers) should be retained for metallurgical examination/analysis.

“However, do not expect laboratory results promptly at this time – they are all congested.”

Published: 12 June, 2018


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