UK P&I Club has issued an alert to operators in the shipping industry over the current practice of using jet and automotive fuels in marine fuel blending
The insurer said there has been a significant increase in low flashpoint irregularities resulting in ‘off-spec’ fuel being observed in VLSFO and MGO in Singapore and in a few cases in the Middle East.
The prime indication of this new practice in VLSFO is a general reduction in the viscosity and density of the fuel.
Flashpoint is the lowest temperature at which fuel gives off enough vapour to form an ignitable mixture in air, near the surface of the liquid. The lower the flashpoint, the easier it is to ignite the fuel.
In light of the danger posed by this, SOLAS prescribes a flashpoint lower limit for marine fuel of 60°C, and anything lower is not permitted. Fuel found with a lower flashpoint, loaded on board or otherwise, is deemed unsafe and will result in statutory non-compliance.
UK P&I Club stressed that it is imperative that proper testing is carried out and that bunker suppliers are notified about potential problems with the fuel without delay.
Director of Risk Assessment, Ansuman Ghosh said “From our experience, bunkers found with a flashpoint slightly below 60°C (57°C or higher) will often improve, as the lighter fractions evaporate naturally. In certain cases, blending with another fuel batch to raise the flashpoint might be a possible solution. This decision can be taken after considering all risks such as fuel compatibility, complications of blending on board and the statutory requirements to be followed in a blending process.”
However, Mr Ghosh warned that if co-mingling was not a viable option, the bunkers “will have to be discharged ashore.”
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