Verifuel calls for bunkering changes post 2020

Malcolm Latarche
ShipInsight

08 February 2019


Improved bunkering practices to enhance safety and fuel quality should be adopted as preparations for the 2020 changes provide a perfect opportunity.

VeriFuel, part of Bureau Veritas, has urged the marine bunker sector, upstream supply chain, and fuel testing organisations, to embrace a new culture that promotes far greater cooperation and transparency in preparation for 2020 and beyond.

To mitigate the risks of an increasingly fragmented and complex bunkering marketplace, VeriFuel is calling on the industry to work together more effectively to find solutions that support the smooth transition to new fuels.

When the global bunker sulphur limit drops to 0.50% from 3.50% at the start of 2020, most of the world's shipowners are expected to comply by switching from high sulphur fuel oil to very low sulphur fuel oils (VLSFOs) with a sulphur content at, or below, 0.50%, unless equipped with scrubbers. Fresh on the market, it is essential to understand just how these fuels will impact fuel systems and engines, making the need for transparency far more crucial.

As a world leader in laboratory testing, inspection, and certification services, VeriFuel says fuel testing organisations have a key role to play in driving forward industry-wide cause-and-effect analysis to better understand which components, in which concentration and combination, are potentially harmful to operations. Bureau Veritas is closely involved in developing marine fuel standards (supported by its own analysis and research into new VLSFOs).

Bureau Veritas’ Global Technical Manager for Marine Fuels, Charlotte Røjgaard, said, “With under a year to go until the 2020 sulphur cap regulation comes into force, the marine fuel supply chain must band together and use this as an opportunity to help dispel increasingly outdated bunker fuel delivery processes and procedures. A lack of transparency does not adequately serve the interests of the ship owners, shipmanagers, operators, or charterers. Instead of pulling in different directions, we need to work collaboratively for the greater good of the industry.”

This call to action comes, in part, as a result of recent events relating to fuel quality. While there have been a series of marine bunker fuel contamination cases around the world during 2018, the reality is that nothing conclusive has yet been identified in terms of the cause. This has been confirmed by the International Council on Combustion Engines (CIMAC) which found that no single chemical could be blamed for the engine failures caused by off-specification fuel.

While testing has previously been conducted in isolation, VeriFuel warns that this approach is not helping to solve the underlying problem. According to VeriFuel, without industry-wide cause-and-effect analysis on a global scale, testing will remain limited to advising owners afterwards what "might" have caused their problem.

Røjgaard explained, “VeriFuel believes that trust is absolutely critical to achieving greater cooperation and transparency. We are committed to working collaboratively to find practical ways to share information, which focus on the technical elements rather than contentious and commercially sensitive details. As digitalisation moves the industry away from slow, analogue processes and procedures, technologies such as blockchain could have an important role to play by delivering greater data transparency, traceability and security in bunker supply chains.”

She concluded, “Treating fuel contamination issues as a commercial opportunity, rather than pulling together at this critical time will not only exacerbate fuel quality challenges, it will also continue a culture of mistrust that has plagued the bunker industry for years. We must all contribute to problem-solving.”