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BUNKER INDEX :: Price Index, News and Directory Information for the Marine Fuel Industry
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IBIA posts advice following spate of fuel quality issues

Advises bunker buyers and sellers in wake of fuel contamination problems in the US Gulf and Panama.

Image credit: IBIA

Updated on 18 Jun 2018 12:36 GMT

The International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) has issued advice to bunker buyers and sellers in the wake of the recently reported fuel contamination issues in the US Gulf and Panama.

As previously mentioned, a number of ships have reported operational problems - mainly sticking/seizing fuel pumps and filter blockages - after taking on bunkers in the US Gulf between late March and May.

The majority of cases are said to have been caused by intermediate fuel oils (IFOs) bunkered in the Houston area, though indications suggest similar problems have also been seen in Panama.

As a result, IBIA has advised industry stakeholders to follow the recommendations set out in Chapter 4 of its recently published 'Best practice guidance for suppliers for assuring the quality of bunkers delivered to ships', which refers to quality control during the production of bunkers (4.2) and quality control in the supply chain (4.3).

The association suggests that by following this advice, it would help improve control of the blend components used and help to prevent such cases.

IBIA also advises ship owners to implement the following measures:

- If you have recently bunkered in the Houston area or Panama, it is strongly recommended to get a solid overview of the quality of the fuel prior to using it.

- If you do use the fuel without going beyond routine ISO 8217 quality tests, pay close attention to fuel oil system components - in particular fuel pumps and filters.

- Consult technical managers/chief engineers within your own company and/or from other technical service providers, including your bunker supplier(s).

Finding the root cause

IBIA observes that a number of fuel testing agencies have reported that the fuels met ISO 8217 specifications during routine testing against the standard, and it was only when ships started to encounter problems that they began to perform forensic-level fuel analysis.

Laboratory test data suggests the fuels in question contain chemical contaminants from non-petroleum sources. And even though the most commonly reported findings include phenols and Tall Oil, IBIA notes that the reports are not conclusive and investigations are continuing.

Referring to previous quality cases over the last three decades, IBIA explains that "the contamination can often be so obscure that no amount of routine analysis will make the defect apparent until the fuel proves defective in use and the subsequent detailed forensic examination identifies the cause".

"In many of these episodes, the source of the contaminant is never adequately identified, but in summary, the root cause was a lack of control of the quality of cutter stock used in the marine pool," IBIA says.

Related Links:

Increased supply chain transparency will solve contamination issues: Tolson
Houston marine fuel contamination: VPS reveals exclusive findings
IBIA presents best practice guidance for suppliers
United States

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