In 2010, more information was circulated globally than all the accumulated information passed in all previous years. The expediential expansion of the internet, particularly social media sites, has meant that the average internet user visits 59 domains and views 1,050 internet pages each month.
A shipping industry that is increasingly fast-moving – driven by new regulations, security issues, health and safety, the environment and increasingly public scrutiny – has not escaped this trend for greater proliferation and requirement for information. Shipowners and operators could be excused for feeling barraged by information. Nevertheless, finding information is important. Filtering through to the right information is even more important.
Take regulation, for example: whether it is the revised ISO 8217 (2010) on fuel content and quality, MARPOL Annex VI (sulphur emissions), ballast water, maritime security, health and safety, the list is endless. When ships take onboard bunker fuel, regulation is of paramount importance; otherwise the amount of bunker fuel piped onboard could not be assessed, nor contents and quality of the fuel fairly and accurately tested, for example. Moreover, as emissions are increasingly scrutinised by regulators, so an owner / operator needs to understand in detail what the compliance parameters are. Where can testing can take place? What testing facilities and equipment are available? What are the current emissions level requirements? What are the risks in procuring poor quality bunker fuel?
Bunker sampling and monitoring is an example of why it is not only essential to monitor the quality of fuels and protect critical equipment and machinery, but it is also imperative for regulatory compliance and dispute resolution purposes. Along with the monitoring of lubricants and emissions, regulation has meant the risks and rewards of accurate and reliable monitoring data can make a significant dent or improvement upon a ship owner or operator’s bottom line.
Given the increasing relevancy of condition monitoring to the shipping industry, Kittiwake has launched the world’s first marine-focused condition monitoring information portal: https://www.machinerycondition.com. This resource is designed to provide stakeholders with detailed technical information and practical guidance across every aspect of marine condition monitoring, with information continually updated as international rules, regulations, technology and working practices change.
Cutting through the myriad of regulations and compliance issues can be complex. In May 2011, DNV Petroleum Services (DNVPS), the bunker fuel testing company, characterised “off-specification” bunker fuels as the “biggest challenge” in terms of the technical aspect of ship operators’ business during 2010. A DNV report concluded that 94% of 96 respondents coming from the technical, operations and management departments of shipping firms said they encountered problems with bunker fuel deliveries.
Around 50% of the shipping representatives said the “fuel quality cases they encountered were resolved in a satisfactory manner,” although 18% of them did not report a positive outcome. The 18% said the availability of an industry standard on fuel contaminants, technical advice guiding the ship on how to use problematic fuels and de-bunkering, would have been useful.
Additionally, over 90% of the representatives involved in purchasing, listed fuel performance indicators, which include off-specification delivery records and delivery quantities, as the most important considerations when buying bunkers.
Some 14% of the total respondents, meanwhile, said they had to debunker the seriously off-specification fuels they received, while 9% did not have to offload but managed to use the problematic fuels based on advice from fuel management companies.
Much of the challenge for ship-owners and operators procuring bunker fuel is that as the shipping industry moves to cleaner fuels, so the source of that fuel and the resulting content become more fragmented and, in some cases, incompatible. How many owner / operators, know, for example that when the purchase 1.0% Low Sulphur fuel that this fuel has been blended with “cutter stocks” such as marine diesel oil (MDO) that is diluted with Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO). As fuel sources alter and there is increasing demand for multiple emission level bunker fuel, so the cutter stock is less likely to be sourced from the same refinery or region as the HFO it is being blended with, for example.
Global bunker player O.W. Bunker last year urged fuel suppliers to take “greater responsibility” in helping ship-owners overcome the technical difficulties associated with using lower sulphur fuels. It warned some ship-owners and operators had been experiencing problems including loss of propulsion, engine failure, filter blockages and damage to auxiliary pumps. “Switching to low sulphur fuel oils and distillates is complex and there needs to be a deep understanding of the technical process,” Steffen Kortegaard, Technical Director, O.W. Bunker, was reported saying.
This view was recently corroborated by Iain Butterworth, Associate Director of UK-based Myton Law, who reported a rapid increase in cases of main engine failures, citing the rapid increase in engine technology and the engine’s compatibility with a much wider scope of fuel types and quality for the emerging trend.
If the real and potential danger of engine failure and the resulting costs of de-bunkering, as well as the potential litigation claims between owner / operator and bunker supplier were not by now self-evidenced, then INTERTANKO’s recent intervention on the matter underlines its importance.
INTERTANKO’s Technical Director Dragos Rauta explained the thinking behind its latest joint submission with Norway to the IMO, which presents data collected from two testing agencies, indicating that approximately 1.4% of bunkering worldwide was the cause of machinery problems when the ship started using the fuel. Rauta said ship operators faced two categories of problems related to bunkers, namely sulphur content, which can breach MARPOL Annex VI limits, and chemical contamination. Of the two, Rauta said chemical contamination was the most serious issue as it could cause engines to stop, or make operations very difficult.
Bunker sampling is not only essential for monitoring the quality of fuels and protecting critical equipment and machinery; it is also imperative for regulatory compliance and dispute resolution purposes. Testing of bunker fuel can be undertaken on-site or off-site in a dedicated laboratory. The table below indicates the testing possibilities for fuels specified in ISO 8217. Where an off-site test is not specified then the parameter is not covered in ISO 8217 for that grade of fuel.
On-site testing, enabled through Kittiwake’s product range of sampling equipment, for example, allows for an immediate decision to be made in case of an off specification fuel but with a limited number of achievable test parameters.
- Water (inc salt / fresh)
- Pour Point
- Cloud Point (used by military but infrequently by merchant marine)
- Compatibility (c.f. sediment)
Off-site testing in a laboratory allows for a much larger number of test parameters to reflect the complete range within the fuel specification ISO 8217.
Understanding the benefits of what both “on site” and “off site” fuel testing provide the ship-owner / operator with offers a good example of how what was once a tick box on a spread sheet for a bunker surveyor has become increasingly complex and vital to the safe and profitable operation of a vessel.
It’s not just bunker fuel content that needs to be monitored. Reducing shipping emissions will be the major driver of change in the maritime industry for decades to come. In the near term, the sulphur limit for fuels burnt in emission control areas (ECAs) will drop from 1.0% to 0.10% in 2015. And since 2010, vessels also need to comply with EC Regulation 2005/33/EC when in EU ports, which, apart from a few exceptions, requires the use of 0.1% sulphur fuel or equivalent emissions. Moreover, legislation pertaining to Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) has already been implemented and, whilst beyond the horizon, legislation around greenhouse gases from either the IMO or the European Union, or both, is imminent.
So ship owners and operators have serious decisions to make and data sets to provide; ultimately based on a complex set of circumstances and a fluid regulatory background. However, there are only two viable options enabling vessels to comply with SOx emissions regulations; use fuel within sulphur limits or fit exhaust after-treatment systems.
Continuous emissions monitoring (CEM) has an important role to play in both, and ‘ in situ’ tools are the most accurate yet. The IMO regulation allows for abatement technology to achieve sulphur emission reductions and, in line with this, Wärtsilä recently predicted a “rapid ramp-up and development of the scrubber market”. Systems capable of measuring down to the equivalent of 0.1% sulphur fuel are key for confirming compliance with SOx regulations when after treatment is used.
With the wide proliferation of ECAs, information on what parameters constitute complicity in what region have become a pre-requisite, as is finding the right information to unravel the complexities of fuel monitoring and testing.
Winston Churchill once said: “True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous and conflicting information.” If, in 2010, the world communicated more information than ever before, what might we expect from 2011 and years to come? The shipping industry needs information, which in turns leads to knowledge and success. However ensuring the right information is collated, processed and acted upon when so much misinformation abounds, represents just as much of a challenge for shipping as it does everyone else.
Chris Leigh-Jones, Director, Kittiwake
Bunkerspot, July 2011