Supplier supplied a fuel that caused serious damage to the machinery. The vessel was incapacitated and had to be towed. The cost to the vessel operator was more than $1 million.
Fuel was tested in full detail and also purifier efficiency was tested. The purifier efficiency was found to be poor. Main filters choked and apparently the filters were bypassed since the vessel was coming to a stop in a heavy traffic area. This was a panicky action on the part of the ship staff.
The fuel contained Asphalt (not asphaltene). Asphalt particles are larger particles, 40 to 80 micron, hard and would normally be thrown out by the purifier. Since purifier efficiency was low, these particles passed and went and choked the main filter. Bypassing the filter allowed these particles to enter the main engine fuel system
The supplier refused to accept the claim from the operator stating that he is not required to supply a fuel that can be used in the engines directly. He claimed that there was an obligation on the part of the ship operator to run the onboard fuel treatment plant properly which included settling, draining, purifying and filtering. If this plant did not operate properly, he is not responsible.
The ship operator took a stand that a bunker fuel should not contain asphalt particles. The supplier had no business supplying a fuel that contained this impurity. It is none of the business of the supplier to comment on the treatment plant onboard. Suppliers responsibility is to supply a problem-free fuel.
In a recent conference which was attended by 40+ technical superintendents, 100+ Chief and second engineers, Ship Owners and Managers – the same case was presented with four options as below.
- Fuel user is at fault,
- Fuel Supplier is at fault,
- Both are at Fault,
- None at Fault.
The response to the above voting were as below:
Viswa Lab was involved in this interesting case. The bunker quantity involved was 2,000 MT. The operator recognizing that purifier may not have been operating at highest efficiency, checked and adjusted and ran the purifier under optimum conditions. The purifier efficiency increased significantly. In the purifier outlet, no particles of asphalt were found. The operator had to decide on what to do with the 2,000 MT of bunker fuel onboard. Both de-bunkering and keeping it onboard were expensive and time-consuming. With the lab approval, the vessel started using the 2,000 MT of fuel. Since the purifier was operating efficiently and the filters did not choke, there was no problem in using the fuel.
The operator may still have had a case against the supplier but since his problem got sorted out, he did not want to press the case. The name of the vessel and the Management is withheld for privacy reasons and this write-up is exclusively for sharing knowledge and spread awareness.
We thank Viswa Lab for sharing such real-time cases which are interesting and note-worthy. If you have come across such cases or you would like to share any incidents, do write to us – E-MAIL