Contaminated bunker epidemic spreads far and wide

The Standard Club is reporting that the global plague of contaminated bunkers has now hit more than 150 vessels with one grounding so far a direct result of dirty fuel onboard.

The issue has spread far and wide – from Houston to Singapore – and has proved very tricky to detect until it is too late.

According to the P&I Club, the main contaminants are phenol and styrene which cannot be identified from standard tests on the bunker sample under ISO 8217, with samples being confirmed as ‘in specification’ despite phenols and styrene contaminants being present. Multidimensional Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) testing is required to identify and quantify these types of contaminants, but has to be requested as an additional set of tests. These tests – currently in high demand – cost more than $1,000 per sample.

The nature of these particular contaminants leads to very sticky, waxy like deposits which have actually resulted in main and auxiliary engines’ fuel pumps seizing, in addition to blocked heaters, purifiers, filters and excessive sludge build up.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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