"The challenge with this type of pollution is that it is not identified as a fuel according to the ISO 8217 standard fuel specifications," said Jorge Pecci, practice director at RSG Underwriting Managers (RSGUM). Two of the most important contaminants in the fuel are phenol and styrene, both of which have natural binding and bonding qualities that can cause gasoline pumps and plungers of the engine to crash.
"There is a way to test the type of contamination, but it is quite complex and expensive," Pecci said Insurance matters. "It is an advanced analytical technique called GCMS (gas chromatography mass spectrometry) testing, which goes far beyond the parameters of Table 2 defined according to the ISO 8217 requirements. Testing bunkers with the GCMS technique before being loaded into ships is the best step for proactive owners and charterers to take if they want to prevent this problem. "
GCMS testing is not a standard testing procedure for bunkers and there are not many laboratories in shipping ports around the world that have this capability. In addition, the GCMS test period usually lasts five to fifteen days, which can be a challenge for shippers and shipowners who are against the clock for submitting bunker contamination applications. This contractual time bar is particularly restrictive if a ship has to remove the bunker because it can cause huge delays and potentially lead to a breach of contract for timed shippers.
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"Bunker suppliers usually have limitations in their contracts, the claims of which must be submitted within 25 days of loading the bunker. If a problem is identified after this period, the shipping company or charterer may lose the opportunity to go against the supplier. Today there are many cases in arbitration where shipowners are challenging suppliers' limitations and the industry is waiting for the results of these arguments, "Pecci noted.
One thing the shipping industry could do is to oblige charterers to perform a GCMS test prior to loading bunkers. So far this step has not been taken for two reasons. The first is that there are not enough laboratories capable of conducting the test to justify shipowners and charterers conducting GCMS tests. The second is, according to Pecci, the expectation that this type of pollution will soon disappear.
"A lot of effort is being made to prevent this type of pollution," Pecci said. "The P&I insurance industry takes a proactive stance, in the sense of recommending customers to take the right steps to prevent a claim. Therefore, it is expected that this type of pollution will eventually disappear."