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Call for bunker sector to embrace a new culture ahead of 2020

Written by Nick Blenkey
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FEBRUARY 7, 2019 — VeriFuel, part of Bureau Veritas, is urging the marine bunker sector, upstream supply chain, and fuel testing organizations, to embrace a new culture in preparation for 2020 and beyond.

“With under a year to go until the 2020 sulfur 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into force, the marine fuel supply chain must band together and use this as an opportunity to help dispel increasingly outdated bunker fuel delivery processes and procedures,” says Charlotte Røjgaard, Bureau Veritas’ Global Technical Manager for Marine Fuels. “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, says BV, 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 explains: “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 digitalization moves the industry away from slow, analog 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 concludes: “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.”

When the global bunker sulfur 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 sulfur fuel oil to very low sulfur fuel oils (VLSFOs) with a sulfur content at, or below, 0.50%, unless equipped with emission abatement techniques (e.g. 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 leader in laboratory testing, inspection, and certification services, VeriFuel says fuel testing organizations 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.

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