The recent release of a survey designed to create a greater understanding of the quality of the new fuel oils and the possible safety issues implications of the IMO 2020 sulfur regulations has drawn interest from the maritime community. Conducted between February and May 2020 by BIMCO along with The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO, the data shows a range of serious problems that some shipowners are reporting with new very low sulfur fuel formulations.
The answers and comments provided by respondents suggest that the transition to IMO 2020 compliant fuel oil (0.5% sulfur) has not been without problems. Fully 86 percent reported some amount of experience with off-spec or poorly-performing fuel.
With fuel oil properties fluctuating, it is causing quality and safety problems that will likely continue to be a challenge for the global shipping industry. One of the challenges is in formulating the new blend proportions and feedstocks in order to create fuel mixtures that comply with the IMO’s new 0.5 percent sulfur limit, says Olivier Baiwir, the managing director at Aderco, the fuel treatment technology specialists.
“Issues such as increased sludge deposits, wax, increased wear and tear due to cat fines, poor ignition, fuel oil pumps seizures, as well as loss of propulsion,” reported in the BIMCO study, “very much mirror requests from ship owners, ship managers and ship operators, seeking assistance as how best to handle the situation using our products, both as a preventative measure and remedy,” said Baiwir.
He added, “Clearly, whilst Covid-19 has not assisted the situation for bunker suppliers, fluctuating fuel issues such as poor stability and compatibility, higher pour point, fluctuating viscosities and fuel contamination can all lead to low shelf life of some VLSFO’s.”
The complete BIMCO report is available online. Aderco agrees that it gives an indication of where the challenges may have been for the shipping industry on a global basis since the new fuel regulations went into effect on January 1, 2020.
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