Outcome of Bunker Sub-committee meeting on 30 August in London

The INTERTANKO Bunker Sub-committee met in London on 30 August 2007 under the chairmanship of Takis Koutris (Roxana Shipping SA). The meeting addressed high priority matters for tanker owners and for ship owners in general. The following is a summary of the outcome:


Revision of MARPOL Annex VI – The Sub-committee agreed to give further input to the Association to assist with the work being done by the IMO Group of Experts to assess the impact and consequences of using different types of fuels and exhaust gas cleaning technologies (i.e. distillates or residual fuels combined with scrubbers). The Sub-committee considered INTERTANKO's assessment with regard to the commercial fleet in number, tonnage and fuel consumption, and further input will be given. 


Experiences with trading in SECAs (Sulphur Emission Control Areas) - The Sub-committee agreed that although fuel changeover operations have become a routine for ships calling frequently in SECAs, the duration of the operation does not vary much according to different bunker lay-out and bunker segregation capability on board ships. Ships with one storage tank for HFO (heavy fuel oil) and one for MDO (marine diesel oil) still need a lot of time to complete the fuel exchange, and should the supply of LSFO be provided too close to the SECA border, the ship might need to stay clear simply in order to comply with the regulations - thereby adding to the overall air emissions. Retrofitting of a more adequate bunker storage capability needs to be considered.


Misfit between LSFO (low sulphur fuel oil) and BN (Base Number) of cylinder oil - The Sub-Committee noted that, despite advice from the IMO that Bunker Delivery Notes (BDN) should record the actual value of the sulphur content, this is not yet being applied in practice. Incident reports show damage to some ships' engines from long operation in South America using LSFO at the same time as an inadequate BN of cylinder oil. Ships have not been aware that the HFO provided to them had a low sulphur content (below 1%) because the sulphur content was given as "max. 4.5%".

The Sub-committee recognised that this type of incident has unfortunately become a "classic" in South America and expressed concern that ships do not test and check the parameters of the fuels used. The Sub-committee agreed that, in case the low BN grade of cylinder oil is not available when LSFO is used for a long period of time, a safe approach would be to reduce the feed rate of the cylinder oil.

The Sub-committee requested the Secretariat to circulate the guidance available for engine manufacturers, including a the recommendations from the International Council on Combustion engines (CIMAC) for the use of low BN and LSFO. This will be published in the next Weekly NEWS. The Sub-committee has also encouraged ship owners to consider testing the fuels they purchase.


Problems encountered in complying with the SECA requirements - The Sub-committee considered reports on problems ship owners experience when the test results of commercial samples from bunkers delivered to ships show a sulphur content of above 1.5% for fuels to be used in SECAs.

In principle, the problems ships encounter are with regard to recognising the validity of the test results from the commercial samples. Some authorities may see these results as "indicative" only but, in case the sulphur content result is not according to the rules, they may not take any action and see the matter as a commercial issue.

There are contradictory reports on the accuracy of the data provided in the Bunker Delivery Notes (BDN) and the results of the tests from laboratories. Some shipping companies experienced that, out of the total bunkers received for use in SECAs, some 20 –25% had a sulphur content slightly over 1.5%. Other reports indicated that the divergence between the BDN and the test results was some 5%.

The Sub-committee requested the Secretariat to consider whether the INTERTANKO model clause for bunker supply covers the aspect of recognition of the test results of the commercial sample if taken under the same standards as the MARPOL sample.


Bunker quality - Incident reports due to fuel quality are still being received. In some cases, engines have suffered serious damage. One problem identified is the high level of the catalytic fines in the fuels, even though these are still within the ISO 8217 standard specification. Although most engine manufacturers recommend testing samples taken before and after the separator and that the catalytic fines should not be higher than 25, the ISO 8217 standard sets the limit at 80.

The Sub-committee made the point that a concentration of 80 assumes that the efficiency of the separator is at least 90%. It was also recognised that the efficiency of the separator is a function of the fuel temperature. Full efficiency requires the fuel at 98°C. If the temperature goes down to 90°C, the efficiency of the separator drops by 30%. The Sub-committee agreed that at its next meeting it would explore more possible initiatives to prevent bunker quality problems, rather than considering approaches related to commercial disputes.


Contact: Dragos Rauta