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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Official recognition of the serious operation risks in fuel switching

INTERTANKO is delighted to see the U.S. Coast Guard recognising the risks in the fuel switching operations that are required by a number of regulators who ask ships to switch from heavy fuels to lighter fuels when in port.


The Association has for years been emphasising these serious operational risks, but has recently seen regulations which require such fuel switching on course to enter into force as early as July 2009 (California) and January 2010 (Europe).


What are the problems associated with fuel switching and why are there safety risks? Ships designed to run exclusively on heavy fuel oil (HFO) for their main engines, auxiliary engines and boilers are now being required to switch to light distillate fuel (MGO) when close to port. Switching suddenly from HFO to MGO in the hot atmosphere of an in-use boiler poses the risk of explosion. Modifications to the boiler system to allow such switching in a safe manner may need to be effected. This work would need to be done by the boiler manufacturer and certified by class, a process that is under way but will take time to complete.


The solution is set out in the article above 'Fuel switching in EU and California - Regulators identify same concerns as the industry'. And that solution is aligning local and regional regulation with the latest amendments of the international regulation MARPOL Annex VI where ships in emission control areas (ECAs) have to use maximum 0.10% sulphur fuels from 2015.


The USCG specifically states that the purpose of its recent Marine Safety Notice is to "increase awareness and provide general guidance on fuel systems and fuel switching safety in an effort to prevent propulsion losses . . . a recent Coast Guard study and review of marine casualties indicate that lack of maintenance and testing of certain systems, including fuel oil systems, is one of the leading causes of propulsion failures."


The USCG goes on to state specifically that "in light of this state of California regulatory initiative, the Coast Guard anticipates an increase in deep draft fuel switching and urges industry to take proactive measures to improve fuel switching safety in an effort to prevent propulsion losses and equipment casualties."


INTERTANKO is fully supportive of ships burning cleaner fuels – in fact it has been advocating that ships burn distillate fuels all the time. But the continued use of heavy fuels means that fuel switching is necessary. What INTERTANKO is calling for is time to ensure that all ships can perform fuel switching operations safely.


Contact: Bill Box