18-06-2018

Singapore’s MPA to take action against suppliers selling off-spec fuel

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore will tighten its vigil over bunker suppliers not willing to conform to the ISO 8217 bunker fuel specifications while supplying marine fuels.

“As a leading bunkering hub, MPA works closely with the stakeholders to provide bunker quality assurance through SS524 (Singapore Standard Specification for Quality Management for Bunker Supply Chain) and TR48 (Technical Reference for Bunker Mass Flow Metering),” an MPA spokeswoman said Wednesday in a statement. While the MPA regularly monitors the quality of fuel supplied to ships by collecting and testing samples, it said it had stepped up its enforcement inspections following cases of off-spec fuels this year.

Singapore, the world’s largest bunkering port, has been hit with a number of off-specification issues — low flash point and high catfines — in the past few months, a frequency not seen in the past few years.

Its effect on prices, barging operations and terminal schedules reverberated throughout the Singapore bunker market in April when a number of vessels were heard to have de-bunkered at the port of Singapore and elsewhere in the region.

Highly abrasive fuel can cause extensive machinery damage and downtime, Viswa Lab’s Vice-president C.K. Muralidharan said separately.

“About 60% of the vessel operation cost is spent on bunker fuel. Even a 2% loss on quantity or quality issue could reflect badly on their balance sheet,” he added.

RECENT ALERTS

The off-specification issue appears to have subsided, but the problem has not entirely gone away as there were three alerts from three fuel testing agencies this month.

Viswa Lab released a report this week saying it had found three instances of low flash point — 52.5, 56.5 and 58 degrees Celsius — in fuel oil deliveries in Singapore.

This is below the limit of 60 degrees Celsius under parameters set by the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, or SOLAS, and ISO 8217 specs.

The samples were from one supplier, which delivered intermediate fuel oil 380 CST over June 1-10.

A source close to the matter said the fuel could have been blended with high speed diesel oil, of which the flash point could be between 32 to 55 degrees Celsius.

“Maybe it’s a minor issue with one batch of cargo and not so widespread,” a trader said.

Earlier this month, Veritas Petroleum Services also issued a low flash point alert on bunker fuel deliveries in Singapore.

On June 8, FOBAS put out an alert on high levels of aluminum and silicon found in a number of bunker fuel samples from Singapore.

INQUIRIES FOR DE-BUNKERING RISE

On average, MPA approves two to three de-bunkering requests per month, the MPA spokeswoman said.

According to MPA, there were six de-bunkering operations in April due to fuels that were off-spec in terms of flash point and/or residue of catalytic fines (aluminum + silicon).

The average volume de-bunkered was about 2,200 mt for each of these operations.

Specialist liquid offloading services provider Pro Liquid’s Director Justin Reinders said that requests for portable pumps for de-bunkering operations were on the rise.

“We have done between five and 10 de-bunkering operations with our portable pumps in the past few months,” he said.

“It takes anywhere between 18 and 48 hours to de-bunker 2,000 mt of fuel oil,” Reinders added. A Blossum Global Marine & Industry executive said requests for de-bunkering started to increase in February and peaked in April. Inquiries have since tapered off a bit, however.

Ship management agency Royal Marine said it noticed unusually more requests for de-bunkering this year compared to last year. It helped arranged the de-bunkering and re-bunkering of a bulk carrier, Navios Equator Prosper, last month.

The vessel had taken bunker fuel in Singapore in the first week of April where a number of bunker suppliers had loaded low flash fuel from a cargo supplier.

Platts trade flow tracking software showed that the vessel left Singapore on April 1 for Saldanha, South Africa, and returned to Singapore on May 17, where it de-bunkered and re-bunkered about 1,500 mt of 380 CST over May 19-20.

Source: Platts

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