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IMO-2020 and beyond: club’s operational experience on the transition to compliant fuel blends

Before implementation of the IMO-2020 global sulphur cap, there were concerns on the properties of the new fuel blends – it was anticipated that the characteristics of compliant fuels could vary considerably. With these concerns in mind, the Standard Club established a dedicated team to guide members on this issue and published an article on the ‘use of IMO 2020 compliant fuels’ last year.

Although there is no requirement to test bunkers before consumption, most of the club’s members adopted a cautious approach and exercised their due diligence by ensuring pre-consumption analysis of fuels.

Perhaps due to this reason the club has not witnessed any major issues or substantial claims related to this matter so far, however, some of the commonly noted bunker quality disputes have been associated either with the marginal exceedance of sulphur content or other parameters like catalytic (cat) fines and sediment.

As reported in the club’s news-alert, high sediment issues were noted early this year at major bunkering hubs. This matter has resurfaced, the latest FOBAS alerts issued in August-2020 warns of high-sediment level problem in fuel oils being sold in Singapore, Port Elizabeth and Rotterdam. Fuels with high sediments can result in increased sludge formation in tanks and throughout the handling and treatment systems, which could clog and damage ship’s machinery.

In its recent bulletin issued on 21 September 2020, FOBAS has presented data indicating an increase in the number of sludging incidents. The cylinder component damage incidents jumped from 14 to 30 comparing the same eight-month timeframe between November and June in 2018-19 and 2019-20. However, such incidents appear to be declining with ships making necessary operational adjustments and getting more experience with the burning of VLSFO in their engines.

Dr Rene Angelo Macahig of Andrew Moore & Associates (S) Pte Ltd. has been extensively involved on this subject and contributed attached article with an overview of fuel stability issues.

Standard Club’s operational experience of IMO-2020 corresponds with the recently announced results of the industry-wide survey that was jointly carried out by BIMCO, ICS, Intercargo and Intertanko from February to May 2020. According to the data analysed during this survey, the sulphur content is among the parameters found most frequently to be off specification when fuel oil samples were tested after bunkering. Other significant variances have been noted on parameters such as Total Sediment Potential (TSP), aluminium plus silicon (catalytic fines), pour point, ash, flash point, acid number and viscosity. The survey report states that as fuel oil properties are fluctuating, quality and safety problems will continue to be a challenge for the global shipping industry.

In light of varying fuel oil quality, members are recommended to use appropriate monitoring and management tools in close consultation with machinery manufacturers and testing labs. Information regarding the stability of the fuel in the region together with bunker supplier’s reassurance on compliance with ISO 8217 requirements should be obtained prior to any agreement. Additional attention should be given to the witnessing and collection of bunker samples, which should be representative of the fuel supplied.
Source: The Standard Club

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