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FUEL TESTING North America and Canada ECAs to impact on Asian bunkering ports

he gradual enforcement of burning low sulphur in fuel ports and coastal waters around the world is creating its own unique problems for the industry

Low sulphur challenges T

according to leading fuel tester DNV Petroleum Services (DNVPS). The beginning of July 2010 saw the

introduction of 1.00% sulphur content limit for fuels burned in European emission control areas (ECAs). “It seems like the regulation is working quite well but we see a lot of problems connected to this,” says Torbjorn Lie, general manager of DNVPS' global consultancy division. He says that the fuel tester is seeing a lot more

blendstocks coming into play in an effort to bring the level of the sulphur content below 1.00%. Refineries can install desulphurisation units, however, this is both time consuming and very costly process, as well as being extremely energy intensive. As a result blending is opted for as an alternative. Figures from Europe show that the number of

off-specification fuels found in the region’s ECAs has increased dramatically following the reduction of the sulphur content limit from 1.50% to 1.00%. Before 1 July 2010 26% of fuels were found to be off-specification whereas after the percentage has increased to 45%. One of the reasons the off-specification figure

is so high is that the 1.00% limit is used as an absolute by port state control authorities, with no deviation of even by 0.01% allowed for. “They take a sample and if it’s above 1.00% it’s a non- compliance,” Lie explains. Being found in non-compliance can potentially

lead to fines or a detention or both. Making things more complex for owners and managers there is no standard as to how a non-compliance is dealt with. “It varies where you get caught, we’ve experienced very different practices in regard to sanctions,” says Eirik Andreassen, managing director DNVPS. He describes it as being similar to be caught speeding a car where a small quantum above the limit may or may not result in punishment. So what should a shipowner or manager do if

they find that the fuel onboard a ship has above 1.00% sulphur content? “If you find you are above the limit there are measures you can take. You can file a complaint against the bunker supplier, you have to inform the port authority. We have seen this happen to make sure they [shipowners]

cover their liabilities,” Andreassen says. Looking ahead to next year there are likely to

be even greater challenges as the North America and Canada ECA is comes into force. The ECA, which will cover all ports in North America and Canada, comes into force on 1 August next year and set to significantly increase the demand for low sulphur fuels. In particular DNVPS sees an impact on major bunkering ports in Asia as much of US trade and imports comes from this region. “The challenge will come 1 August next year

when you have to 1.00% in major ports worldwide – Singapore, Hong Kong and Fujairah. Then they will start to blend fuels that will be the bottleneck,” says Lie. He says that ports in Asia are not necessarily geared up for the change and what happens next year could be “very interesting”. Lesser problems are expected with vessels that bunker in Europe as major ports such as Rotterdam have been offering low sulphur for a number of years for the ECAs in the region. In the longer term the drive towards the

mandatory use of low sulphur fuels is likely to see shipowners increasingly switching to alternatives. “As the sulphur content of fuel is reduced and we need to do more to the fuel we will switch to other types of fuel. I think eventually LNG will play its part as will scrubbers,” says Andreassen. Even when higher quality fuels are used he

notes these will still need to be tested, and DNVPS will have a continuing role in the wider realm of fuel management. With LNG being used as a fuel there are also quality issues as it is not as straightforward as originally believed.

It varies where you get caught, we’ve experienced very different practices in regard to sanctions.

Eirik Andreassen, DNVPS

Seatrade Bunkering Report 2011


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