Intertanko calls for action on contaminated fuel oil

Contaminated bunker fuel was first detected in the Houston area. Credit: DNVPS
Contaminated bunker fuel was first detected in the Houston area. Credit: DNVPS

Industry body Intertanko has called for immediate government action to prevent the sale of unsafe bunker fuel, with hundreds of vessels having been damaged by contaminated products over the past five months.

With ships in several locations still receiving contaminated bunker fuel, Intertanko has called for authorities to take action to ensure that fuels delivered to their ports do not expose ships, their crews, and the environment to serious risks.

“We fear that this will become a global epidemic, with the possibility of disastrous events,” Intertanko said.

So far port authorities have made no attempt to identify the cause of the problem, identify any remaining contaminated batches, or issue alerts to the whole industry.

“The ultimate request from the Intertanko membership is that fuel blenders and fuel suppliers should be required to fully warrant the quality of their fuels.”

The problem was first noted as early as January in the Houston, Texas, area, but began spreading to the Caribbean, Malaysia, and Singapore.

Intertanko dismissed suggestions from some authorities in the media that the complaints were an attempt to delay the enforcement of the 2020 sulphur regulations, believing that “this may well be a deliberate diversion to keep any guilty party out of the spotlight”, it said.

“It is not the deadline of January 2020 that is the issue but the lack of interest and action by relevant authorities to stop contaminated fuels being sold and exported from ports under their jurisdiction.

“Until the fuel supply industry and the authorities accept their share of responsibility, there is an obvious need for more public awareness. A purely legal approach will not change the mindset of those who might deliberately put our crews, the environment, the ships, and their cargoes in serious danger,” it continued.

Vessels faced similar problems in 2007 and 2013, with supplies also originating from the same ports in the Houston area.