Tricks of the Bunker Trade: Dealing with Bunker Disputes

by Kaivan H. Chinoy, Petro Inspect / The Bunker Detectives
Thursday October 10, 2013

In case of the event of a short fuel delivery, remember that time is of the essence as any post- bunkering investigation is many times futile and inconclusive.

However, the following minimum steps are recommended to safeguard owners/charterers interest:

  • Immediately notify the parties concerned and appoint an independent surveyor if not already done so and do not disconnect hoses.
  • Re-do the entire gauging, check and re-check both pre and post bunkering calculations making sure the list/trim corrections have been correctly applied.
  • Verify correct temperatures and densities have been used.
  • Issue letter of protest for each incident and have it acknowledged by the barge (note the barge Master will probably refuse to acknowledge such letters).
  • Write up a detailed statement of facts leading to the short delivery.
  • Preserve any evidence e.g. if you suspect froth on the surface of the fuel / too many bubbles on the sounding tape then taking photographs would be prudent.
  • A success of a claim will largely depend on the nature and the quality of evidence gathered at the time the supply is made. If there is detailed contemporaneous written evidence, the ship operator will be in a much stronger position in case of subsequent litigations.
  • Further, it may be necessary for full disclosure of the supplier's stock movement reports to ensure that the original supplied quantity tallied with the quantity at the time of opening gauge.
  • Another tactic we have seen is "pilot onboard" – this may seem like a stalemate and to the supplier's advantage (delaying the vessel's departure it never a good thing) but with careful handling of the situation the agent should be advised beforehand to postpone the pilot boarding thus giving the vessel sufficient time to resolve / deal with the dispute.
  • The barge outturn figure (delivered fuel quantity) will be recorded on the BDN for invoice purposes. In case of a short fuel delivery a note of protest must be issued and the same reflected in the Oil Record Book (ORB) and do not sign the BDN as presented but sign only for the soundings and ship's volume.