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Thursday, September 20, 2018


Short Delivery of Bunkers?

With the recent increases in bunker prices the question of the quantity of received bunkers has re-appeared creating the problems of alleged short deliveries of this costly material.

Some of the methods and techniques which are used by the bunker barges delivering fuel to avoid full delivery, or at least make the vessel believe that it has received its full contracted amount, appear to range from at best most devious to the outright scandalous.

During the past months DNVPS have issued their Bunker Alerts warning their customers of the devious use of compressed air or nitrogen that was used by certain bunker barges in Singapore for the apparent clearing of pipelines upon completion of delivery of bunkers to a vessel.  Although on face value such a technique may be valid from a pollution prevention perspective to avoid the potential of any residue leaks from the bunker hose when disconnecting from the receiving vessel, clearly, such barges carrying out this technique do not have drip trays of adequate capacity or have systems in place to drain the delivery hose back to the bunker barge upon completion of bunkering.   This being the apparent or potential reason, one must ask the question as to whether the barge is seaworthy for the function or service it is performing within the confined waters off Singapore and the potential pollution problems to be associated with a bunker spill.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the consequences for the measurement of the delivered bunker quantity onboard the receiving vessel could be large.  By entraining air or nitrogen within a viscous bunker the resulting observed volume will be artificially increased over a short period of time until the entrapped gases evolve from the liquid bunker.  Furthermore the use of nitrogen can cause an artificial drop in the viscosity of the bunker over a short period thereby impacting the apparent quality of the material received.

In contrast to this type of procedure an alternative bunkering event was reported by an INTERTANKO member that took place off Gibraltar.  No better description of the event can be supplied than that contained on the vessel’s own bunker report from which is reproduced below with kind permission from the Member.

"The Barge connected hoses and the flow meter readings, prior start, were taken by the 4th engineer by physically going on the barge. Then they commenced bunkering simultaneously Fuel and Diesel oil. Fuel oil was being taken into the port wing tank, which contained 60.0 m3 prior start, and Diesel oil was taken into the D.O. settling tank which was empty. The F.O .and D.O. pumping commenced at 0542 and 0554 hrs respectively. At abt 0650 hrs, the pumpman of the barge said that D.O. bunkering was complete, and the actual quantity of D.O. bunker received was 93.0m3, whereas, as per the flow meter on the barge, it showed 119.69 m3. We informed the barge of this discrepancy, and the pumpman said he will talk to the Master of the barge. Meanwhile the soundings in the F.O. tank and the flowmeter were being constantly compared, and it was observed that there was a difference of 50 to 60 m3 (the flowmeter showed an excess of 50 to 60 m3). We informed the barge Master that we will not sign any documents for the quantities shown by the suppliers, and will take the actual quantity received on board as the official figure. The barge Master then decided to resume pumping D.O. and pumped from 0936 to 0942 and  gave 96.4m3(80.6 MT). The Barge Master and the pumpman were observed to be adjusting a Red valve on the port side at the break of the accommodation and one man at the flowmeter, when the F.O. bunkering was in progress. The rate of receiving F.O. also was quite slow, but when we intervened about the quantity, and told the Barge Master of the difference of 60.0m3, it was observed that the crew on the barge were again adjusting the valve, and the rate of loading of F.O. increased and the difference in the flowmeter and actual figures being received on board reduced to 10.0 m3. Finally, the final figures were:

F.O.:496.3 mt(Ship’s fig.) and 499.691 mt(barge fig)Diff:3.391 mt

D.O.:80.6 mt(Ship’s fig.) and  99.529 mt (barge fig.) Diff:18.929 mt."

With the foregoing description and supporting photographs showing the location of the offending “Red Valve”(see photo below) , the conclusions to be drawn are left to the readers as to what type of activity was being undertaken by the bunker barge.

There is, of course, a conclusion to be drawn from such events.  Regular monitoring for the quantity of bunker received thereby ascertaining the rate of receipt could detect any variations and abnormal barge pumping operations.  Undertake regular comparisons with the bunker barge to detect abnormal differences.  Should these occur then observe operations on the barge and photograph and record the observed operations for subsequent reporting.  Compile a contemporary report of the bunkering activities enclosing the regular quantification of the received volumes and tonnages of bunker, photographs and time log.  Finally, Note Protest to the barge with the observations made onboard the vessel.  It is thought that such procedures will ultimately save both money and avoided wasted time subsequently debating the apparent shortage of delivered bunker long after the event took place.

INTERTANKO would like to hear of any other such events so that an evaluation can be made and members advised.