VeriFuel calls for cooperation and transparency ahead of 2020

Feb 11 2019

Bureau Veritas (BV) subsidiary VeriFuel has urged the marine bunker sector, upstream supply chain, and fuel testing organisations, to embrace a new culture.

This is aimed at promoting far greater co-operation and transparency in preparation for 2020 and beyond.

To mitigate the risks of an increasingly fragmented and complex bunkering marketplace, VeriFuel has called on the industry to work together more effectively to find solutions that support the smooth transition to new fuels. 

BV’s Global Technical Manager for Marine Fuels, Charlotte Røjgaard, said:“With under a year to go until the 2020 sulfur cap regulation comes into force, the marine fuel supply chain must band together and use this as an opportunity to help dispel increasingly outdated bunker fuel delivery processes and procedures.

“A lack of transparency does not adequately serve the interests of the shipowners, shipmanagers, operators, or charterers. Instead of pulling in different directions, we need to work collaboratively for the greater good of the industry.”

This call for action comes, in part, as a result of recent events relating to fuel quality. While there have been a series of marine bunker fuel contamination cases worldwide last year, the reality is that nothing conclusive has yet been identified in terms of the cause.

This was confirmed by the International Council on Combustion Engines (CIMAC) which found that no single chemical could be blamed for the engine failures caused by off-specification fuel.

While testing has previously been conducted in isolation, VeriFuel warned that this approach is not helping to solve the underlying problem. According to VeriFuel, without industry-wide cause-and-effect analysis on a global scale, testing will remain limited to advising owners afterwards what ‘might’ have caused their problem.

Røjgaard explained: “VeriFuel believes that trust is absolutely critical to achieving greater co-operation and transparency. We are committed to working collaboratively to find practical ways to share information, which focus on the technical elements rather than contentious and commercially sensitive details. As digitalisation moves the industry away from slow, analogue processes and procedures, technologies such as blockchain could have an important role to play by delivering greater data transparency, traceability and security in bunker supply chains.”

She concluded: “Treating fuel contamination issues as a commercial opportunity, rather than pulling together at this critical time will not only exacerbate fuel quality challenges, it will also continue a culture of mistrust that has plagued the bunker industry for years. We must all contribute to problem-solving.”

When the global bunker sulfur limit drops to 0.5% from 3.5% at the start of 2020, most of the world's shipowners are expected to comply by switching from high sulfur fuel oil to very low sulfur fuel oils (VLSFOs) with a sulphur content at, or below, 0.5%, unless equipped with emission abatement techniques (eg scrubbers).

Fresh on the market, it is essential to understand just how these fuels will impact fuel systems and engines, making the need for transparency far more crucial. 

VeriFuel said fuel testing organisations have a key role to play in driving forward industry-wide cause-and-effect analysis to better understand which components, in which concentration and combination, are potentially harmful to operations.

BV is closely involved in developing marine fuel standards (supported by its own analysis and research into new VLSFOs).

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