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IMO 2020 Bunker Issues

Since the implementation of the 0.5% sulphur limit on 01 January 2020, LOC has been involved in numerous disputes relating to fuel quality and sulphur levels.

As was expected, it has been seen that the viscosity of the low sulphur fuels vary widely, although this should not cause any operational problems.  Most of the quality issues that we have seen are due to high sediment levels, with the test for total sediment potential (TSP) exceeding the ISO8217 limit – often by a wide margin.  In some cases, further testing has been carried out to try and determine the risk of using the fuel.  As the 0.5% sulphur fuels are likely to be blends of various components, it is important that fuels are not mixed on board.

Another issue we are seeing is with the sulphur content.  The test method used for determining the sulphur content in ISO8217 is subject to a tolerance, such that a test result of 0.53% meets the specification.  The IMO verification procedures for implementation of the 0.5% sulphur limit, include testing an in-use and onboard sample.  The test result in this circumstance is subject to the same tolerance as ISO8217 i.e. it complies if it does not exceed 0.53%.  IMO however, does not apply any tolerance should the MARPOL sample be tested – this fails if the sulphur content exceeds 0.5%.  A fuel can therefore meet the ISO8217 specification but not be compliant with MARPOL.  When the routine bunker analysis shows the sulphur content to be between 0.5% and 0.53% this presents a dilemma for Owners.