Updated 11 Oct 2019
Since the first motor ship went into service in 1912, ships have mostly used MDO and MGO as fuel with IFO and HFO appearing later and, being cheaper, rapidly becoming more favoured for larger ship types. LNG as a marine fuel – other than for steam turbine powered LNG carriers – has less than two decades of being used.
With shipping being obliged to seek cleaner alternative fuels for the future, there will inevitably be a steep learning curve for crewmembers who will likely be required to deal with many different fuel types within their careers.
Since there will always be occasions when a seafarer’s encounter with a different fuel will be their first, it seems sensible for training and safety management systems to ensure an understanding of risks, hazards and special measures that need to be taken with each fuel type is in place. This will need to cover all aspects of different fuel types used on board a ship including the fuel treatment system, fire-fighting or other safety matters and the method of bunkering.
Most of the small-scale pollution events in shipping occur as a consequence of mistakes during bunkering so this is an issue that needs addressing but as well as anti-pollution measures and safety, crew must also be aware of all aspects of bunkering relating to quality and quantity delivered. Surprisingly in the past this has not been fully addressed in STCW so there has been no requirement for crew to undergo any formal training in bunkering.
Although there is no formal requirement, there are training courses available to attend and also training films on the subject. In addition, organisations such as class societies and P&I clubs frequently disseminate advice on the matter. In April 2016, the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) joined with UK-based South Shields Marine School at South Tyneside College, to develop a course unit on bunkering essentials for merchant navy cadets and engineering officers taking their Class One and Class Two certificates of competency.
The course aims to explain the fundamentals of the bunker industry, the key regulations affecting shipping today, along with the latest industry challenges and developments.
Perhaps because of its unique characteristics, LNG bunkering has received some attention from the IMO and under the IGF Code which came into effect in January 2017, some new requirements have been incorporated into STCW. Handling LNG fuel and other low flashpoint fuels on ships along with rules for specific equipment training and operations on LNG-fuelled ships including bunkering operations and some aspects of LNG-terminal operations are now mandatory for officers and crew serving on gas-fuelled ships. To advance their careers, seafarers must have at least one month of approved seagoing service to include a minimum three bunkering operations of which two could be replaced by simulator training of bunkering operations.