Regulations for bunker sampling are set out in MARPOL Annex VI, though specific rules drawn up by some ports and companies need to be noted too.
As well as inspecting their equipment for any dirt or damage prior to sampling, the ship operating company should follow the regulations and take additional precautions to ensure both accountability and fuel quality.
The following actions will minimise the chances of supplier-receiver disputes:
- Both the supplier and the receiver need to be on hand to confirm the completion of the process
- The sample should be poured into several smaller containers and the labels signed by both parties
- The seal numbers must be written on the sample labels as well as in the Bunker Delivery Note (which both parties should sign and counter-sign).
The cutter stock should be introduced very gradually to the residual fuel while the contents of the bunker tank are pumped around; insufficient blending will lead to inconsistent or unrepresentative samples. Changes in the flow of the sample will alert the operator to possible blending problems.
Similarly, the mixture of new fuel and fuel already in the tank (if it is not completely empty) can be chemically unstable, which is why some form of on-vessel testing method can be useful.
If an analysis shows that the flashpoint temperature has fallen below 60°C (though there are certain exceptions), the fuel must be extracted from the vessel as soon as possible and put aside. A further flashpoint test should be carried out before the fuel is offloaded to avoid subsequent expensive pumping operations.
Even small improvements in fuel quality can make a positive difference further down the line, in terms of prolonging the lifespan of pumps, pistons and other machinery. Time and energy spent spotting potential problems before the fuel is on-board makes sound financial sense.
Parker Kittiwake supplies lightweight, easily installed Fuel Drip Bunker Samplers, used by shipping companies across the globe.