VLSFO sediment issue goes global

Veritas Petroleum Services (VPS) is warning clients that the issue of fuel instability leading to sediment formation in very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) has now gone global.

Splash has reported in recent weeks of high sediment being reported in VLSFO samples at European ports and the major bunkering hubs of Singapore and Houston. The situation is now believed to be far more widespread.

Between December 24 2019 and January 21, VPS has issued seven bunker alerts relating to sediment issues within VLSFO fuels. These bunker alerts show that sediment problems within VLSFOs is not restricted to a single port, or region, over this recent four-week period, as alerts have been issued in relation to fuel supplied in Singapore, Piraeus, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Miami and San Vincente.

Steve Bee, group commercial and business development director for VPS, stated, “I’ve never known such a concentrated frequency of bunker alerts to be issued in relation to a single fuel quality problem as we have seen with sediment problems in VLSFOs over the past four weeks.”

On January 3, Splash reported an alarming 60% of proposed blends for making 0.5% low sulphur fuel oil in Houston, America’s top bunkering destination, failed to meet sediment specifications, according to tests carried out by AmSpec Services, while FOBAS, the fuel verification company owned by class society Lloyd’s Register, has also issued recent similar alerts about non-compliant fuels cropping up in Europe and Singapore, the world’s largest bunkering hub.

The news is set to keep lawyers busy in the first weeks of the global sulphur cap era. Excess sediment blocks filters and can cause engine damage.

Beth Bradley, a partner at law firm Hill Dickinson, commented that the current marine fuel supply situation is looking like the “perfect storm” for litigators.

“There are a great number of issues which may radically impact on the liability situation. It’s gearing up to the perfect storm for litigators,” Bradley said.

Hill Dickinson has recommended that time charterparties and related bunker supply contracts should contain carefully worded provisions to clarify bunker specifications, sampling procedures and how the potential loss of time owing to inspections and de-bunkering operations is to be shared.

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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