Between February and May 2020 BIMCO, The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO conducted The Fuel Oil Quality and Safety Survey with the aim to get a greater understanding of the quality of the new fuel oils and possible safety implications of the IMO 2020 sulphur regulation. The dataset analysed, with questions being formulated in a more generic way and targeted at shore-based personnel, was based on 192 responses from individuals of the respective members’ technical (52.6%), operational (21.9%) and bunker (8.3%) departments.

BIMCO noted that the distribution frequency of answers cannot be considered to represent the frequency of problems in the world fleet. However, it does give an indication of where the challenges may have been for the shipping industry on a global basis since 1 January 2020. The answers and comments provided by respondents suggest that the transition to IMO 2020 compliant fuel oil (0.5% sulphur) has not been without problems. Furthermore, as fuel oil properties are fluctuating, quality and safety problems will continue to be a challenge for the global shipping industry.

With new blend proportions and feedstocks needing to be formulated in order to create fuel mixtures that comply with the IMO’s new 0.5 percent sulphur limit, Olivier Baiwir – managing director at Aderco, the fuel treatment technology specialists, commented “Issues such as increased sludge deposits, wax, increased wear and tear due to cat fines, poor ignition, fuel oil pumps seizures, as well as loss of propulsion very much mirrored requests from ship owners, ship managers and ship operators, seeking assistance as how best to handle the situation using our products, both as a preventative measure and remedy”.

He added, “Clearly, whilst Covid-19 has not assisted the situation for bunker suppliers, fluctuating fuel issues such as poor stability and compatibility, higher pour point, fluctuating viscosities and fuel contamination can all lead to low shelf life of some VLSFO’s.”