Why Do Ships Need a Class Notation for Drop in Biofuel Bunkers?

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Thursday May 9, 2024

Last month classification society ABS announced the first vessel in the world had qualified for one of its new biofuel-related notations.

The Carras (Hellas) SA bulker Aquataurus received the ABS Biofuel-1 notation, signifying that the ship was suitable to consume blends with up to 30% biofuel content in compliance with IMO and ABS requirements.

One of the most attrative aspects of biofuel for reducing a vessel's emisisons footprint is that they are so-called 'drop in' fuels. That is, they have been designed to work as a direct replacement for traditional oil bunkers.

Unlike switching to ammonia, or fitting bukner saving tech such as an 'air carpet' system, using biofuels typically require no modifications to a vessel, and as such are an attractive solution for the existing fleet.

As such, some readers have expressed some confusion as to why a notation from a classification society would be needed before a ship could safely use biofuel.

To answer this, we spoke to Stamatis Fradelos, vice president for regulatory affairs at ABS, who set out the purpose of their notation for Ship & Bunker.

"Most ships should be able to use a fuel mix with biofuel content up to 30% with potentially no hardware modification and qualify for the assignment of biofuel-1 notation," Fradelos said.

"Despite that hardware modification may not be necessary, the assignment of the notation provides an assurance that relevant risks have been addressed, consultation and acceptance by the manufacturers has been completed and relevant procedures for the safe use of the fuel mix have been prepared."

Fradelos says relevant documentation includes:

  • Certification, no objection letter, confirmation, or statement of fact from the original equipment manufacturer of the combustion units
  • Type of biofuel(s) intended to be used, the blend ratio(s) and the flash point.
  • Fuel changeover procedures or guidance plans.
  • Risk Assessment Report. Risks are to be analyzed using acceptable and recognized risk analysis techniques.
  • Operation and maintenance manuals, including specific biofuel handling procedures.
  • In-service Inspection Plan including any conditions/limitations and proposed shipboard suitability testing.

"For Biofuel-2 notation (use a biofuel blend of greater than 30% biofuel), additional requirements apply including NOx emissions measurements, and possible hardware modifications if the engines require significant changes to their critical ΝΟx technical components to burn biofuels, as per MARPΟL Annex VI," he adds.