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In an industry survey carried out by BIMCO, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), INTERCARGO and INTERTANKO, 22% of respondents said that low sulphur fuel oil had been de-bunkered as a consequence of 0.50% sulphur fuel oil properties.

The survey, which was launched on 24 February this year and concluded on 6 May, focused on the incidence of problematic properties of IMO 2020-compliant fuel oil that could lead to operational or other issues.

The survey was aimed at shore-based personnel, not ships’ crews, and 192 responses were submitted.

In terms of survey results, 14% of respondents answered ‘no’ to all 10 questions relating to off-spec and operational quality issues, which would indicate that they had not experienced any problems.

Looking at the incidence of off-spec fuel, the eight most selected characteristics or limits in relation to ISO 8217 parameters were as follows: sulphur; total sediment; Aluminium and Silicon; pour point; ash; flash point; acid number; and viscosity.

62% of the respondents indicated that to some extent they had experienced increased sludge deposits in the fuel oil system, including increased sludge discharge from the ship’s separators.

32% of the respondents answered that they had experienced wax appearance in the fuel oil system e.g. in fuel oil tanks, filters etc.

31% of the respondents answered that they had experienced operational issues caused by increased wear and tear of cylinder liners, piston rings or other components, assessed to be due to increased amounts of catalytic fines (cat fines) in the fuel oil.

22% of the respondents answered that fuel oil had been de-bunkered as a consequence of fuel oil properties.

21% of the respondents answered that they had experienced problems with fuel injection, poor ignition or incomplete combustion of the fuel.

18% of the respondents answered that they had experienced fuel oil pumps seizures.

10% of the respondents answered that they had experienced loss of propulsion and/or black out as a consequence of fuel oil properties.

The answers and comments provided by respondents suggest that the transition to IMO 2020 compliant fuel oil (0.50% sulphur) has not been without problems.

The industry organisations which undertook the survey noted that: ‘As fuel oil properties are fluctuating, quality and safety problems will continue to be a challenge for the global shipping industry.’

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