Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Sulphur Cap on Ocean Vessels Said to Cost Thousands of Extra Dollars Per Voyage

Discussion Illustrates the Need to Educate Crews on Best Practice Bunkering
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – As is the way of things at the moment with conferences and face-to-face seminars cancelled or postponed a recent discussion regarding the complexities of bunker fuels, Bunkering Challenges 2021, saw 100+ participants tune in to a webinar on the subject and it threw up some interesting views and facts.

The event was organised by trade association management company Maritime AMC and Sacha Cornell, Fleet Manager at Norbulk Shipping said the imposition of the Sulphur Cap which from 1 January 2020 limited the sulphur in the fuel oil used on board ships operating outside designated emission control areas to 0.50% m/m (mass by mass), a significant reduction from the previous limit of 3.5%, could cost tens of thousands of dollars for each ship per annum. He said:

“I would guesstimate that the extra cost for additional sampling, on board test kits, increased purifier maintenance, supply and installation of cermet piston rings, treatment chemicals, additional filtration equipment is in the region of between US$10,000 and $20,000 per ship per annum.”

This of course may have been anticipated, however on something we have heard such concerns previously over, that of the purity and quality of some of the new fuels replacing the old marine oil, Mr Cornell reiterated, saying there are numerous cases in which very low sulphur fuel delivered on board contains undesirable substances, resulting in problems relating to fuel stability, storage, handling treatment and processing, and citing one such case.

Sacha Cornell recalled a vessel receiving a batch of very low sulphur fuel in Rotterdam. Ship and barge samples were taken and analysed, with the fuel recording a total sediment reading of point 7.075, well within the ISO parameters. But after 24 hours use, the ship’s purifier and fuel system were blocked, requiring engineers to carry out repetitive cleaning of purifiers and sludge discharge piping every 24 hours. He continued:

“Until the vessel had consumed all the bunkers, the crew had no option but to handle the problem on board which is not a good situation for any engineer or ship owner to be in, especially when you are unable to make a claim against the bunker supplier.”

Enhanced testing of suspect bunker could not identify the cause of the operational problems and thus gave no basis for a claim against the supplier. Commenting on Cornell’s presentation, Kjeld Aabo, Director New Technologies, MAN Energy Solutions and Chairman CIMAC Sub-Group WG 7 F - Fuel, said it was sad to hear there still are issues.

However he added it was definitely not something being reported to CIMAC and ISO and that, whilst acknowledging there had been problems last year he emphasised the importance of having ceramic coated piston rings to better control wear on the liner surfaces. In reference to cat fines, Aabo recalled one instance where 2000ppm was found in one sample, continuing:

“CIMAC and ISO say it is not a big problem today. Ship operators are now used to the procedures and know how to better use the lube oil and the low sulphur fuel. In the beginning of 2020 we saw quite an increase in cylinder liner scuffing and excessive wear is, of course, not acceptable but by August, we were back to normal.”

Bunker training and sampling procedures were recurrent themes throughout the CSI-branded webinar, with Cornell explaining that Norbulk has implemented various preventative measures to safeguard against bunkering problems, commenting:

“Crew training is vitally important. When you talk to some crews about the importance of the sampling process, and how to make sure that the sampling is done well, and is a true representative sample, I find, unfortunately, a lot of times they're not fully aware of the implications if they do not get it right. There should be more education in this area.”

This view was backed up by Maritime AMC Director and bunker expert Ian Adams who emphasised the importance of training crews and office staff on how to properly and safely bunker fuel in a post-IMO2020 environment, a view supported by bunker consultant Neil Lamerton who said:

“Often the crew on board have no idea of the value of bunkers. Obviously, engineers are very good at using the fuel. But I think some owners and manager can do better at educating them on the commercial aspects of what they're actually doing. They need to know what it means financially to the company if it all goes wrong, not just the technical, operational aspect.”

The webinar can be watched in its entirety HERE.

Photo: Courtesy of Norbulk. Taken by Second Officer Fedorov whilst in Iceland.