Fuel Quality Standards are Hammered Out Heavily in Favour the Fuel Suppliers – Viswa Lab’s Top Executive Cautions Seafarers & DGS.




The Institute of Marine Engineers (India), (IMEI) in association with the Indian National Shipowners’ Association (INSA) organized a seminar on “Marine Fuel Oil & Challenges” at IMEI House, Navi Mumbai. The importance of the subject can be gauged from the fact that 25% of a shipping company’s operating cost is spent on Bunker fuel.

Mr. R.C. Bhavnani, Vice-president, Global Marketing, Viswa Lab:


Urging seafarers and Director General of Shipping to remain wary of clause 5 of ISO 8217:2010 and annexure B of the ISO ship fuel regulation draft, Mr R C Bhavnani, Vice-president, Global Marketing, Viswa Lab, told them that ISO 8217:2010 standards are hammered out heavily in favour ship fuel suppliers than evenhandedly suiting the interest of ship owners and seafarers.

The IMEI past President further said that Director General of Shipping and maritime stakeholders like INSA should oppose and be guarded against the clause 5 of ISO 8217:2010 and the annexure B that insulates a fuel supplier from penalty in the event of consequential engine failure losses suffered by ships on voyage due to poor or contaminated bunker fuel quality.

While clause 5 of ISO 8217:2010 stipulates that marine fuels shall be free from any material that renders the fuel unacceptable for use in marine applications, the annexure B of ISO 8217:2010 counteracts the clause 5 by excusing the fuel supplier of whatever contaminants may be in the fuel since it can be at ‘varying levels’. The supplier is also free from liability as the fuel contamination can come from refineries, storage terminals and supply facilties, said Mr Bhavnani, who also happens to be a member of American Bureau of Shipping.

The Ex- American Bureau of Shipping surveyor further enumerated how ship fuel chemical components lead to engine damage resulting in litigation between fuel supplier and charter party. The low sulphur fuel cannot be stored for long in the fuel tank as it paves way for growth of bacteria or other fuel stability related problems that causes engine or purifier breakdowns. Ship operators plying in the Emission Control Area(ECA) should exhaust them and should not keep them for long, he said and added that low sulphur fuel are also poor lubricity. He narrated how fuel tank cleaning crew negligence led to consequential losses to a charter party. The ship concerned went for a fuel change after four days of voyage and experienced choking of filters, heavy sludge formation in purifiers and malfunctioning of fuel pump leading to the grinding halt of ship mid-sea. She was towed to the nearest port of refuge for repair works.

The investigation analysis revealed that asphalt/tar used in road construction works was the cause of engine damage costing $ 2million loss to the ship owner. The matter went to mediation and arbitration where the fuel supplier argued that tar being heavy density chemical of 25 microns should have been filtered out by the fuel filters of the ship. Mediation and arbitration council buyed into his argument and ruled that incident occurred due to ship owner’s side negligence and not of the fuel supplier. The purifier and filter of the ship should never be bypassed in the maintenance routine in this particular case the routine was skipped by the crew due to fatigue, he said.

Heat The Fuel to Ward of Polypropylene Hazard:

A bunker supplier at Singapore supplied fuel to a charter party who complained later that ship’s purifiers were choking and troubled engine operation, and demanded debunkering the fuel. The bunker supplier agreed to debunkering and the incident was documented in the ship’s record book. The bunker supplier who also has his own fleet of ships filled the debunkered fuel in one of his ships for a voyage. Surprisingly, the ship was able to perform smooth voyage with the debunkered fuel. The matter was taken up by the Investigative Analysts to find out how the bunker works in one ship and not in the other.  The filter sizes of the both the ships were same and further investigation showed that fuel oil has to be heated at 137 centigrade to reach the state of viscosity where polypropylene becomes wax and melts into vapour. The polypropylene hazard could be dealt by heating the fuel oil above the prescribed levels, he added. (This is one-off case and this solution may not be appropriate to all similar or related problems).

Bunker Quantity Surveys – A Sure shot way to Save Millions!

Underscoring the importance of bunker survey he said 25% of a shipping company’s operating cost is spent on Bunker fuel; a true inventory check is often difficult; complex tank shape, list, trim etc. all influence the quantity measurement and estimation – this provides ample opportunities for supplier to manipulate and short supply; and with a million $ commodity transfer occurring in just 12 hours even a 1% loss is huge.

Settle and Drain to get rid of Catfines:

The bad condition of settling tank could end up in invasion of catfines (Aluminum and Silica) in the pump and engine. Catfines are the hardest substance next to diamond that becomes a grinding paste in the engine rubbing parts posing the hazards of fuel pump wear, liner wear and seizure. Therefore enough attention has to be paid in the heating and draining of the settling tank. Similarly the chemicals Vanadium Oxide & sodium in the fuel is found to ruin turbine blades and exhaust valves due to the sodium vanadium combine, he pointed. Draining settling tanks will not only remove water but also catfines.

Global Sulphur Cap:

Speaking about global Sulphur cap he said currently it is 3.50% and by 1st January 2020 the cap will drop to just 0.5%. Feasibility review for this cap would be done in 2018 he said.  In the Emission Control Areas (ECA) according to IMO Annexe VI the Sulphur Cap till 31st December 2014 was 1.00% this became 0.1% from 1st January 2015.

So what are the options to meet the limits? He said it would require:

  • Usage of distillate fuels with 0.1% or less sulfur;
  • usage of 0.1% sulfur fuel oil;
  • conversion to LNG;
  • installation of Scrubbers and
  • use of methanol as Fuel.

The Engine Log Book Will Speak!

Nowadays the overworked seafarers do not pay enough attention to log book that plays key role of witness in a dispute between fuel supplier and a charter party or shipowner. The shipowner objective in poor quality fuel dispute is to maximize the blame and maximize the damages claim. Whereas the fuel supplier objective is to confuse the issue and avoid the claim at any cost. Here comes the logbook role as crucial piece of evidence in settling the disputes. Therefore seafarers should adopt meticulous approach in log book recording, the Viswa Lab top exec said.

Concluding his speech he touched upon the important part of mitigation of Legal Risks when receiving bunkers. While Stamping and signing Bunker Delivery receipt he asked the following words to be included:

The bunker supply is on account of vessel’s time charterers Messrs – – – – – – – – -. I hereby declare that neither the owners nor the vessel are responsible for payment of this supply and no lien or other claim against the vessel can therefore arise. This he said would help protect shipowners’ interests.


Mr. Deepak Shetty, IRS, Director General of Shipping:

  • Expressed surprise that seminar on such an important topic was being held for the first time.
  • Speaking about the lack of R&D activity he urged IMEI to collaborate with government organizations such as DRDO, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA).
  • He further urged industry to look at shale gas, in which USA has the first mover advantage. Speaking about the IMO’s MEPC Sessions he urged the surveyors to add value to the papers being presented by India.

Dr. Sujata Naik-Tolani – Chairperson of Tolani Shipping Co:

  • A Doctor by profession, Dr.Sujata Naik, drew a parallel between medical profession and maritime industry professionals. After learning medicine doctors have to practice under senior doctors before they independently start practicing medicine. Similarly there is a need for those who have acquired certificates need to work under the guidance of seniors.
  • While accepting that overworked person is in a similar state as the drunken person and that the seafarer feeling fatigued due to this is a risk to the safety of the ship. But pointing to the flip side, she said at every handover some crucial information is lost. Besides, many hide behind the regulation.
  • Today the seafarers rise in their jobs much faster, even before they have acquired sufficient knowledge. She urged senior seafarers to share their invaluable on board experience and participate as examiners. She urged experienced seafarers to convert people to this profession by sharing their experiences particularly with young people in schools. Talking of mentoring she said everyone can be a mentor.

 Mr. B.R. Shekhar, Chief Surveyor, DGS:

  • spoke about the challenges faced by seafarers and ship owners due deteriorating fuel quality particularly in light of the demands placed by environment regulations. Today with refiners extracting more fuel from the same crude compared to earlier there is high percentage of contaminants. He assured that DGS audited and then certified the process of refining and therefore Indian supplies had no complaints. LNG is an option to fuel oil but it has its own challenges such as availability, storage.
  • He lamented that Indian seafarers took casual approach to bunkering process.

Mr. David Birwadkar, Vice President & Head – Fleet Management, The The Great Eastern Shipping Company Ltd:

  • highlighted the technical issues faced by Ship owner /operator & Ship staff.
  • Indicating the rise in the cost of damage due to fuel related issues he said citing 2012 Swedish P&I Club report; the average cost of main engine damage has risen 52% from USD 358,000 to USD 545,000 since 2004. Average cost of Piston damage claims is $438,488. Average cost of cylinder liner damage claims is $5553,998. Average cost of fuel pump damage claims is $313,764. And, average cost of multiple part damage claims is $684,885.

Source: IMEI & INSA


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