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West P&I: How to limit your exposure to fuel contamination

Making sure crew members that handle bunker fuels have the right training is vital to reducing the risk of contamination, said Capt. Simon Hodgkinson, Head of Loss Prevention.





The following article on steps shipowners and operators can take in preventing fuel contamination issues was written by Capt. Simon Hodgkinson, Head of Loss Prevention at mutual marine insurer West P&I; it was recently shared with Singapore bunker publication Manifold Times:

Fuel contamination remains a huge financial and operational risk for shipowners and operators, as the Singapore incident from earlier this year shows. In April, around 200 vessels visiting the port experienced technical issues such as blackouts and problems with or damage to the fuel pump or engine, forcing some to debunker. 

An investigation by the Singapore Maritime and Port Authority has since attributed the contamination to a batch of high sulphur fuel oil with high concentration levels of chlorinated organic compounds. 

At the time of writing, it is too early to determine how much the incident, involving US$120 million worth of affected fuel, will cost shipowners and operators. But with vessels experiencing operational problems – causing major delays to cargo delivery – insurance claims could reach millions of dollars and take several years to resolve. 

With marine fuel easily the biggest operating cost for shipping companies, they cannot afford to make mistakes. Fortunately, there are measures available to them to limit the risks of a widespread fuel contamination. 

Testing can be a crucial tool  

Buying good quality fuel from a reputable source is one top line way to reduce risk, although a supplier’s reputation is no guarantee that all fuel will always meet specification. Yet suppliers with exemplary reputations usually charge more – and it can be difficult to understand the relative reputations of suppliers in a port that a shipowner is not familiar with. The high price of fuel oil could understandably prompt some shipowners to go for cheaper, lower-pedigree alternatives. 

The risk is that operators get what they pay for when choosing a more affordable option – low-grade or even contaminated fuel that will cost them dear in disruption, delays or damage to the vessel. Owners and operators can be forgiven for buying at the lower end of the market to minimise their outgoings when oil prices are so high, but there are ways to cut risks.  

For companies willing to pay more, finding the best product is fairly straightforward. Fuel testing specialists have records on all suppliers around the globe, including data on the quality of their fuel, giving buyers confidence in what they purchase. Continuously updated port-specific fuel standards and compliance data can be obtained by shipowners, and is provided alongside bunker quality alerts to all West members on the Club’s Neptune platform. Guidance on buying quality fuel is also available in this International Maritime Organization document.

Another safeguard for shipping companies is to get the fuel tested by a specialist, which will likely reveal any potential issues or anomalies. If there are concerns, the shipowner or operator should then have a gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GCMS) test to check for traces of volatile organic contaminants; the most common being chlorinated solvents, phenols and styrene.    

Testing fuel may be an obvious approach, but getting it done within the parameters of the bunker supplier contract is often tricky. Unsurprisingly, the contract is usually heavily weighted in favour of the supplier, with time bar clauses limiting the period for when a shipping company can make a claim. 

Contractual issues 

The set period in the BIMCO Bunker Terms 2018 is 30 days for concerns around fuel quality and 14 days for issues related to quantity. But in some instances, suppliers set very short time limits, possibly seven days or less, within the contract. That period may have already elapsed by the time the shipowner has sent samples off for testing, received the results and then started burning the fuel – after which time it is too late to make a claim. A claim against a fuel supplier is limited by the total cost of supplied fuel and may not cover all potential losses.    

Other contractual issues to be aware of include a financial cap on liability and the quality determination clause, where the shipowner has to respond within a short time to a supplier’s request for joint testing. Failure to do so means the owner must accept the results of the test, even if it was conducted in their absence. 

The circumstances for making a claim change when there is a time-charter in place. In that situation, the charterer is obliged to supply a reasonably well-maintained vessel with fuel that is fit for consumption. At the very least, the fuel should comply with ISO 8217, the global standard for marine fuels used in shipping. But even if it does pass routine inspection, the fuel may contain contaminants that remain undetected without GCMS testing – putting the charterer in breach of the fit for consumption clause.

Should a breach occur, leading to engine problems, the shipowner can pass liability to the charterer, requiring them to debunker and to provide compensation for any physical or financial losses. The key thing here is for the owner to have evidence proving contamination or that the fuel has already caused damage.   

Building crew awareness 

Making sure crew members that handle bunker fuels have the right training is vital to reducing the risk of contamination. Seafarers must understand the basic components and functionality of marine fuel systems and standards. They should also be well versed in the impact of marine fuels on machinery, oil analysis reports and identifying potential problems. Experienced mariners will be able to monitor the vessel’s separators and fuel consumption when fresh fuel is burning, enabling them to spot any issues as early as possible. 

Well-trained seafarers will also know that isolating new fuel in separate tanks until the samples have been tested is critical. Not isolating the new fuel leaves the shipowner in a weak position when making a claim, as combining fuels could be the source of the contamination – something that they may be unable to dispute in a legal claim. Even for off-spec problems, using additives or blending fuels to bring it back on-spec can invalidate the supplier’s contract. 

Bunkering remains an essential, but challenging, practice for shipowners and charterers who will likely face a huge bill if things go wrong. For more advice on how to limit the risks of fuel contamination, West P&I’s Loss Prevention team can provide expert guidance. 


Photo credit: CHUTTERSNAP from Unsplash
Published: 25 July, 2022

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Fuel Testing

Singapore: CTI-Maritec shares testing protocols ahead of mandatory enhanced bunker fuel checks

In light of mandatory enhanced checks for marine fuel delivered at Singapore port coming into effect on 1 June, CTI-Maritec shares recommendations for fuel testing protocols, primarily focused at COCs and SAN detection for bunker supply in Singapore.





Louis Reed from Unsplash

With mandatory enhanced checks for marine fuel delivered at Singapore port coming into effect on 1 June, bunker fuel testing and marine surveying business Maritec Pte Ltd (CTI-Maritec) has published a newsletter providing recommendations on vital pre-emptive fuel testing measures vessels should be taking as part of their routine fuel testing and also recommendations on optimal testing options available when deep-dive analysis is required to determine a root cause: 


On 8 February 2024 the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) issued a Port Marine Circular No 3 of 2024 regarding the implementation of enhanced testing parameters for marine fuel batches intended to be delivered as bunkers in the Port of Singapore in addition to the existing quality assurance measures.

In accordance with the MPA’s Port Marine Circular No 3 of 2024, from 1 June 2024 onwards, bunker suppliers in the Port of Singapore must ensure that:

  • Residual & Bio-residual bunker fuel do not contain Chlorinated Organic Compounds (COC) above 50mg/kg and are free from inorganic acids.
  • COC must be tested using the EN 14077 accredited test method and shall be reported in the “Certificate of Quality” (COQ) provided to receiving vessels.
  • Inorganic acids must use the ASTM D664 accredited test method as prescribed in ISO 8217 and the Strong Acid Number (SAN) (in addition to the Total Acid Number (TAN) shall be reported in the COQ (i.e. SAN = 0) provided to receiving vessels. For distillate / bio-distillate bunker marine fuel batches, SAN must be tested as per ASTM D664 test method and reported in the COQ.
  • Residual marine fuels are free from polystyrene, polypropylene & polymethacrylate. These can be tested by filtration, microscopic examination, & Fourier-Transform Infrared spectroscopy analysis.

Testing Recommendations in line with MPA Enhanced Parameters to Protect Your Vessels:

In view of the above, CTI-Maritec recommends fuel testing protocols as depicted in the chart below (as routine pre-emptive measures and/or for deep dive requirements to detect the root cause) to help safeguard vessel health.

Our recommendations are primarily focused at COCs and SAN detection for bunker supply in Singapore, while recommendations for testing Polymers are advised for requirements of reported problem cases or when highly abnormal GCMS findings of chemical compounds like Styrene, DCPD and Indene are detected.

COC & SAN GCMS testing Packages A to E

Related: Singapore: CTI-Maritec publishes whitepaper on upcoming mandatory enhanced bunker fuel tests
Related: Singapore: Marine fuel quality testing agencies applaud move for mandatory enhanced bunker fuel tests
Related: Singapore: MPA tightens testing parameters to reduce contaminated bunker fuels
Related: MPA: Glencore and PetroChina supplied contaminated bunkers to about 200 ships in the Port of Singapore


Photo credit: Louis Reed from Unsplash
Published: 29 May 2024

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VPS conducts assessment on first SIMOPS methanol bunkering op in Singapore

Firm was appointed by OCI Methanol Europe to conduct a quantity and quality assessment of a methanol bunker fuel delivery to “Eco Maestro” in Singapore.





VPS conducts assessment on first SIMOPS methanol bunkering op in Singapore

Marine fuels testing company VPS on Tuesday (28 May) said it was appointed by OCI Methanol Europe, part of the OCI Global Group, to conduct a quantity and quality assessment of a methanol fuel delivery to Eco Maestro in Singapore.

Captain Rahul Choudhuri, President Strategic Partnerships, VPS, said VPS survey experts Rafael Theseira and Muhd Nazmi Abdul Rahim were at hand during the methanol bunkering to ensure the 300 metric tonnes of methanol transfer was carried out smoothly, having been involved in the first methanol bunkering a year ago. 

Manifold Times recently reported X-Press Feeders, Global Energy Trading Pte Ltd (GET), and PSA Singapore (PSA) successfully completing the first simultaneous methanol bunkering and cargo operation (SIMOPS) in Singapore.

A X-Press Feeder container vessel, Eco Maestro, on its maiden voyage from Asia to Europe was successfully refuelled with close to 300 mt of bio-methanol by GET, a MPA licensed bunker supplier, using MT KARA

The ISCC-certified bio-methanol used for the SIMOPS was produced by green methanol producer OCI Global and supplied via GET, a ISCC-certified supplier.

Captain Choudhuri said the role of the marine, petroleum or bunker surveyor has evolved over the years in shipping and maritime affairs, but the principles have not - and that is to provide independent assessment of the quality and quantity of the product transfer. 

“This may seem obvious but this quality and quantity control is crucial to avoid commercial discrepancies, shortages or fraud,” he said.

“Safety training is critical and we have been on top of this having completed the required MPA fire-fighting course and the IBIA Methanol training course. We will work more with the Singapore Maritime Academy for trainings in future,” he added.

In August last year, Singapore-headquartered independent common carrier X-Press Feeders launched its first ever dual-fuel vessel Eco Maestro in China.

Manifold Times previously reported VPS stating it was the first company to complete a methanol bunker quantity survey (BQS) operation in Singapore on 27 July last year.

VPS was appointed by Maersk and Hong Lam Marine Pte Ltd, to undertake the very first bunker quantity survey (BQS) of a methanol fuel delivery, supplied by Hong Lam to the Maersk vessel on its maiden voyage to Europe. 

Related: First SIMOPS methanol bunkering operation completed in Singapore
Related: VPS completes quantity survey on Singapore’s first methanol bunkering op
Related: Singapore bunkering sector enters milestone with first methanol marine refuelling op
Related: X-Press Feeders launches its first methanol dual-fuel vessel “Eco Maestro” in China


Photo credit: VPS
Published: 29 May 2024

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LNG Bunkering

Gasum and Equinor ink continuation of long-term LNG bunkering agreement

Agreement builds on the success of the previous contract Gasum has had with Equinor; Gasum’s bunker vessels “Coralius”, “Kairos” and “Coral Energy” will be used for the bunkering operations.





Gasum and Equinor ink continuation of long-term LNG bunkering agreement

Nordic liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunker supplier Gasum on Tuesday (28 May) said it signed a long-term contract with Norway-based global energy company Equinor whereby Gasum continues to supply LNG to Equinor’s dual-fuel chartered fleet of vessels. 

The agreement builds on the success of the previous contract Gasum has had with Equinor. Gasum’s bunker vessels Coralius, Kairos and Coral Energy will be used for the bunkering operations.

The agreement also includes additional support services such as cooling down and gassing up, which has also been a part of Gasum’s previous collaboration with Equinor. 

Gasum has organised three separate LNG cool down operations for Equinor in Skagen so far this year.

Both Gasum and Equinor have committed to sustainability goals to enable a cleaner energy future. Equinor’s ambition is to become a net-zero emissions energy company by 2050.

Using LNG in maritime transport means complete removal of sulfur oxides (SOx) and particles, and reduction of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions of up to 85 percent as well as a reduction in CO2 emissions by at least 20%. LNG is interchangeable with liquefied biogas (LBG/bio-LNG), which reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 90% compared to conventional fuel such as marine gasoil (MGO).

With LNG and bio-LNG the maritime industry can reduce emissions already today, instead of waiting for future solutions. Gasum’s strategic goal is to bring yearly seven terawatt hours (7 TWh) of renewable gas to market by 2027. Achieving this goal would mean combined carbon dioxide reduction of 1.8 million tons per year for Gasum’s customers.

Related: Equinor Energy AS extends LNG bunkering agreement with Gasum
Related: Gasum expands LNG bunkering business to ARA region through partnership with Equinor


Photo credit: Gasum
Published: 29 May 2024

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