Contaminated fuel: MPA suspends bunker supplier’s license for 2 months

Written by Nick Blenkey
PS tests identified contaminated fuel

Leading marine fuel testing provider VPS identified the contaminated fuel back in March

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has concluded its investigation of the incident this year that first came to light when leading marine fuel testing provider VPS said it had identified 60 vessels that had bunkered high sulfur fuel oil (HFSO) contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons. Each of these deliveries were made from two suppliers and 12 delivery barges in the Port of Singapore, between mid-February to mid-March 2022. They contained up to 2,000 ppm of chlorinated hydrocarbon contaminants

As a result of its investigation of the incident, MPA has taken actions that include a two months suspension of the bunker supplier license of one of the two companies that supplied the contaminated fuel, Glencore Singapore Pte Ltd, for two months.

Back on May 5, MPA reported that the source of the affected HSFO fuel — which had been supplied to ships by both Glencore and PetroChina International (Singapore) Pte Ltd — had been traced to fuel loaded on a tanker at the Port of Khor Fakkan, United Arab Emirates.


Forensic fingerprinting analysis of the fuel samples taken from the tanker showed a match with samples taken from several affected ships that had received HSFO from both Glencore and PetroChina.

MPA also established that both Glencore and PetroChina, as MPA-licensed bunker suppliers, had carried out tests on the fuel supplied to ships prior to their sale based on the international standards of petroleum products of fuel – International Organization for Standardization 8217 (ISO 8217).

MPA found no evidence that Glencore or PetroChina had intentionally contaminated the HSFO.

Nonetheless, MPA found Glencore in contravention of MPA’s bunkering license terms and conditions

Today, MPA said that, between March 21 and 23, 2022, the fuel oil testing laboratory engaged by Glencore reported results showing that the samples taken from the parcels of fuel oil Glencore purchased, contained concentrations of COCs that ranged from approximately 2,000 ppm to 15,000 ppm. COCs are not commonly present in bunker fuel, especially at such elevated levels.

MPA’s investigation found that despite this, Glencore continued to supply bunkers blended with the fuel contaminated with high levels of COC to vessels in the Port of Singapore from March 22, 2022 to April 1. 2022.

By doing so, says MPA, Glencore contravened the terms and conditions of its bunkering license (bunker supplier) in failing to ensure that no bunkers supplied by it were contaminated. Glencore was given the opportunity to comment on these findings before MPA finalized its conclusions.

A total of 24 vessels were supplied with the affected fuel by Glencore from March 22 to April 1, 2022, and at least three vessels have reported issues with their fuel pumps and engines.


MPA will suspend Glencore’s bunkering license (bunker supplier) for two months with effect from August 18, 2022. MPA has also asked Glencore to improve its internal procedures to ensure that prompt action is taken in future when it becomes aware of, or reasonably suspects, any irregularity in fuel quality.

MPA’s investigation also revealed that PetroChina had stopped delivery of the contaminated fuel promptly by March 19, 2022 once it received its own test results that the fuel it supplied was contaminated with COC. MPA has therefore decided not to take any action against PetroChina.

MPA has reminded all licensed bunker suppliers to adhere strictly to the terms and conditions of their licenses. MPA takes a serious view of contraventions of the bunker supplier licence terms and conditions, and will not hesitate to suspend or cancel the relevant licenses, where necessary. MPA has also reminded licensees to immediately report to MPA any irregularity in any bunker operation or contravention of any provision under the terms and conditions of their bunker supplier licence.


To guard against contaminated fuel, MPA’s quality fuel assurance measures comprise the Bunker Quality Inspection System (BQIS) and the Intensified Bunker Quality Checks (IBQC). The BQIS tests the quality of bunkers supplied to vessels while the IBQC tests bunkers carried by bunker tankers before supply to vessels. On average, over 1,300 bunker samples are tested annually under the BQIS and IBQC to verify compliance with ISO 8217. While the occurrence of COC is rare in bunkers, MPA has now included that COC be tested for under both BQIS and IBQC.

MPA and the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) will co-chair an industry expert group to establish a list of chemicals to be tested and their corresponding concentration limits. The expert group is expected to make its recommendations on additional measures to strengthen quality assurance of bunkers delivered in Singapore. The Chemical Metrology Division from Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA), the International Council on Combustion Engines (CIMAC) and the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) have expressed support for MPA’s efforts to strengthen fuel quality checks and have confirmed their participation in the expert group. In addition, experts from testing laboratories and other relevant bodies will also be involved in the expert group.

MPA will also continue to share relevant information with the ISO, as part of the ISO’s ongoing review of the ISO 8217 standards.

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